Thursday, March 31, 2011

Character Development

I have a brand new playlist in iTunes. So far it only has about half a dozen songs, but for me that's a pretty great start. Why? Because it's the playlist for my next book. It's what I'm going to listen to when getting into my characters' heads.

We all have different ways of getting to know new characters. I've seen several great posts on character development lately. Here are three of the ways I've been discovering the personality and voice of my next MC:


Voice can be tricky to master. Sometimes when first meeting a new character we wonder if we'll ever figure out the voice. I remember feeling a bit paralyzed when planning out Olympus Gate because I had some idea of Annie's voice, but it kept slipping away from me. I could describe it, but I couldn't use it.

Fortunately it did eventually become natural, and now speaking through her takes no extra effort. But knowing that I succeeded once before only helps a little now that another character has usurped all my attention.

So how do I get to know the new girl's voice? Well, for the first time I'm trying out character interviews. I set aside a block of time, fire off a few questions, and let my new leading lady find her words. The interviews have revealed so many unknown things about her, and at the same time they have allowed me to explore her voice. I can try out different nuances, and if they don't work, I can just throw them out!


In one of the interviews I started off with an easy question about what my character loves to collect. From there we “discussed” what her room looks like, which led back to some details about her early childhood that I realized would have had a profound influence on the way she sees the world.

Now that information was already in my notes, but until we really dug deep into the details of her background, it was just information. Knowing the facts isn't the same as experiencing them, and by delving into the repercussions of this one event in her life, I was able to connect with a core element of her psyche.

That's what makes backstory so important. Without knowing where our characters come from, we can't mold ourselves into the proper shapes to tell their stories.


This particular book requires a lot of research because it involves a severe injury and the consequences of that injury. I've been learning so many things that I was simply clueless about only a month ago. This injury will truly change my character's lifestyle.

But the research isn't just helping me get the logistics of the story worked out. It's also helping me figure out my character's personality. Every new thing I learn makes me wonder: how would she react to this? How will her worldview change? And every time I face one of those questions, she becomes clearer and clearer in my mind.

So how about you? What do you do to make your characters more real?

1 comment:

  1. Character development is always a little difficult for me. It usually takes me the first draft of the story to nail the voice.

    I've found that character interviews don't work so well for me, but writing a few scenes that don't really have much to do with the main story, but show the character in her everyday life can help me flesh out the character's back story and point of view.

    Good luck with the research, it sounds fascinating!