How to get to know your characters, better?

-4th day of Devin’s Writing Routine Exercise-

He sits on a chair in the corner of my mind, in all black. He is looking down at his feet leg resting on his other knee. Arms are crossed as he avoids eye contact with me. My character isn’t speaking. Why?

Have you ever experienced this? Well in the past few days I have come to know this feeling and sometimes this is the horrible excuse that I use to state that I don’t know what to write next. Thing is, that isn’t going to help a person get closer to their characters. This is the conversation I believe I have had with silent characters in the past.

Devin: “Why won’t you talk to me?”

Character: *Sits silently and avoids looking at me. He says nothing.”

Devin: “Fine… If you aren’t going to talk, how can I write about you?” *Devin stomps off in the opposite direction only to realize that her character is still behind her someplace* (Since, it’s in her mind.)

I believe that If writers are not willing to get to know their characters, then how can you write about a shadow? You can’t see any details to their face, you can’t see the scar on his face that he got when he was younger from a wizard. You can’t see her magnificently fierce red hair and lavender eyes. Sometimes you don’t even know their names then.

Since I am a Character Drives your Plot kind of girl, characters are very important to me. Even though I still sometimes hit a roadblock where my characters don’t want to talk. Here are a few things that I have learned help a lot when writing (getting to know your characters) about them.

  1. Character Sketches – By sketches, I don’t mean drawings here. Some people have been known to looking up questions about personality and such, but I have found that I rather just start writing about the character while asking these questions.
    •What does your character want? (This one is a very important question!)
         •What are some ways that you can make sure that your character doesn’t get what they want? Have some conflict to make his or her goal harder to achieve! 
         •Sex? M or F?
         •Name Ideas
         •Role in Story
         •What do they do? (e.g. are they a student? if so where? *Harry Potter a student at Hogwarts)
         •Physical Description
         •Background•Internal and External Conflicts
         •Habbits and Mannerisms 
  2. Search for them – Yes go outside and look for them! haha… okay maybe not. Although going out and watching people really does help with visual characteristics of writing characters into existence. Get on ‘Google’ and search for some faces that look like your character. I will share with you one below. :)

    These two pictures are two that I have in a character study for one of my characters in the current book that I am working on.

    I know this has nothing to do with the character stuff, but I love this dress and how it flows in the wind! hehe

  3. Draw them – This helps a lot, especially when you are in a scene. Draw them out on a sheet of paper. I can hear some people moaning at me, “But, Devin! I am a bad drawer, I can’t draw!” Let me tell you, you can draw. The drawing helps you see your character, even if you are just drawing a stick person… at least you can see them. :)
  4. Act them out – Robert Liparulo gave me this idea. He actually acts out all the scenes in his books with his characters. He gets in his character’s skin. It definitely brings NEW meaning to become your character.
  5. Make them a playlist – I love this… It takes me a while to find certain songs for characters, but it really helps when I do, do it! :)

I hope these tips help you out a little bit when planning out your characters. :)

What about you? Are there some other things that you do when you ‘get to know’ your characters?

2 thoughts on “How to get to know your characters, better?

  1. I’m also a “character-driven” writer, and I love the list you posted for getting to know your characters. Sometimes a character can refuse to talk to you, that’s true. But then, maybe that’s a clue to how stubborn that character is, don’t you think? One of the best things I ever did to help my writing was to take improv classes. I guess that would fall under your #4 above: “Act them out.” Doing improvisations really will help you write dialogue. That’s especially important if you want to write screenplays, or theatrical plays (my specialties). Thanks for writing such an informative post!

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