This post goes along with a previous post I had about writing flat characters. By creating a thorough character sketch with a backstory, I’m able to really get to KNOW my characters and flesh out my stories better. Previously, I used my own Q&A worksheet, but found it much easier to use someone else’s. I follow K.M. Weiland’s blog and used her great questionnaire.
Each question leads to a stronger awareness of who your character is and what motivates or scares them, and many other traits you didn’t know that character even had. Some of the questions aren’t easily answered, but by the third page I feel like we’ve been introduced and I have a good feel for who the character is.
I also write an autobiographical backstory for each main character and then tie them all together. I start from birth and to whom, then into education and young life, then delve into what happened in their lives to make them who they are today. By the end I feel like I have a whole book to publish on a single character, but will only draw from that history. It’s surprisingly fun to write the history of villains. Give it a try!
After I have all the backstory typed onto my computer and connected through hyperlinks in my word processing program, I print the pages out and put them into an organized notebook. It helps me to have order so I can find things when I need them.
This method works for me. Do you have a process in getting to know your characters? How do the introductions go?
I haven’t exactly “fit in” in nearly everything I’ve done, jobs I’ve had, social groups, and so on. I have three reasons for this. One, I’m just too different from people/groups etc and just can’t find common ground. Two, I believe I won’t fit in and ostracize myself so I’m on the outside looking in (like it’s my problem as to why I don’t fit in!). Three, I haven’t found my place yet.
All of these have a thread of truth in them. I’ve spent a lifetime never really belonging in social groups. Always standing off to the side, watching. Possibly, I was sitting there making up new characters for my stories, because I’m a writer — writers are generally known for spending much of their time alone writing.
But, as a writer if you want to publish and become successful, you have to be social and build a social media platform. You have to put yourself out there and make friends, maybe some enemies too. You put on your marketing hat and adapt an outgoing personality to reach your goals. Honestly, I have no idea how I can do that. I’m an emotional person, I hide away and watch, and I’m scared to be out in the line of fire.
The only thing that keeps me going is that passion for writing. I can make something do the things I don’t know how to do nor have a desire to do let alone the fortitude. But I want something. I have a passion. I’ll walk through my fears to reach it. Nothing else is quite as satisfying as writing novels, or fits who I am. I may try my hand at other things to put food on the table, but ultimately writing is the real deal for me. I’ve only scratched the surface on what holds me back as a writer.
What about you? Are there things that hold you back in your pursuit for your career path?
One of the first books I wrote, I loved and it was just beautifully prosed. At least until I learned about a little about characters and storytelling. I analyzed my main character, and asked myself simple questions, “She’s on a quest to save the country from evil, what does she add to the quest? What personality traits help her achieve her goals? Does she even have any goals? If I deleted the character from the story, would the story go on without her?”
After a deep look at my character, I realized she was weak and shallow and this was my main protagonist! She was a character my book could do without. It was a difficult discovery.
Throw the book aside? I think not. I can’t ignore all the many years of work. So I filled out character sketches, mapped out my characters personalities and their involvement with the story. My other characters were fun, strong, and had quirks. But the main character: a dull one.
Ultimately, I revamped my character, adding depth, discovering who she is, and it’s led to a complete rewrite of the story, naturally. Now there’s more depth. Today, I can tell you who my character is, how she will react in different situations, but mostly how my story needs her.
How deep are your characters? Are they worthy of being in your story?
A realization I’ve had of late is how much there is that I don’t know. I’m a new blogger and there’s a ton to learn. I’m starting a writing business–a big bit to chew off all at once. I have a website that I have no idea how to draw traffic. All the while I have my creative writing that grows as I learn.
Is there a point in which you arrive? Is there an “Aha!” moment where you just know you made it and aren’t lost in the cloudy uncertainty of learning new things?
It feels like the world and technology keep pressing forward and if you don’t keep up, you get left behind. Maybe you never really arrive at knowing all you need to know. It just might be a good thing.
I had a beloved high school English teacher, long retired now, tell me that at 70 some years old, she was still learning the craft of writing. I believe she was a poet. Her words stayed with me.
You might not come to a wondrous moment where you know all you need to know, but there might be a point where you know enough to be comfortable, maybe to even have a bit of confidence.
What do you think? At what point do you say; enough is enough, I know all I need to know? Or at least, all I need to know to have some confidence?
I remember I had a lot of time when I was younger. The hours I spent pinning pictures up on my walls, organizing and typing out every song on my CD’s, writing fantasy stories, or just chatting on the phone for hours with my girl friends.
Today, I look at my three-year-old. He has zero responsibility and no worries aside from playing and eating. He did have to learn everything a kid needs to learn. I’ll give him that.
I used to have time. Not anymore.
Today, my life is packed with responsibility. A mother and housekeeper’s duties, a writer, a member of a writers group, a girlfriend, a friend, a budding business owner, a blogger, a reader, and a worker just trying to meet the bills. No wonder it’s hard to find the time to breathe! Even in the down times, I feel unproductive and lazy. I should be marketing, researching on the Internet, or writing on my WIP, and the list goes on.
My time is filled with everything I have to do and things I love to do. But I do feel overwhelmed by it all, and find myself immobilized by stress. Maybe a perspective shift is in order? Or a better priorities list?
What helps you juggle all the responsibilities of life? How do you manage your time?
I’ve blogged for only a couple of weeks and I’m finding it difficult to find where I fit. I know I’m not a teacher or an editor. I’ve only just dabbled in the publishing world and the business world. In my own writing, I have to rework my writing constantly. So I find it tough to blog that I know what I’m talking about.
So who am I? What do I know enough about to blog 5+ times a week? I know about the struggles of life and child rearing. I know my wayward experience. I might not be teaching anyone from my own experiences, but maybe someone might read it and feel they aren’t alone. Maybe I can share who I am and connect with people? I’ll spend the weekend thinking and come up with a shiny new post next week.
I write myself into corners, which should raise the stakes and add tension and drama to my story. The story moves forward based on what the character will do.
I found a way to weasel out of the corners, being the fantasy writer I am, I just use magic to get out of sticky situations. I take the easy road because I don’t like to see my characters struggle and must rescue them quickly. Because of my easy solution my plot gets weaker and the stakes that I had created are now zilch.
An example of my easy solution:
One of my WIP is a fantasy story about a powerful witch who uses magic to do her every whim. The world really is handed to her and her life is pretty easy when magic can easily change everything. I’ve been advised by my writers group to create a set of rules for my character and the world she lives in. This way she can’t easily use magic to get out of every situation she gets into.
Have you come across a similar issue in your own writing? How did you solve it?