A running list of methods to discover or develop characters in stories, compiled from my experience and that of my fellow-writers all over the place:
- Ask questions of your character, directly – and get a direct answer! (Want to know who’s great at this? Visit Kirsten’s blog – she talks to her characters and her Muse and shares the conversations. I love it! Here’s a recent conversation: Infinity Edge)
- Mind map (cluster) with the character and his problem or situation at the center
- Free-write – see what bubbles up
- Daydream, but focused
- Collect “scrapbook” stuff (physical or online) – pictures of people who look like your character, collections of things he likes, scenes that evoke the character’s “feel”
- Move character to a new location, time, genre and see what happens
- Believe he is real. Treat him as such. Attend to him. What’s there?
- Start small, non-intrusively – would you ask a stranger to reveal secrets at first meeting?
- Start writing the story – let the story draw your character out – no pressure to KEEP the writing.
- Take the character out of his comfort zone (Shy? make him sing in front of others. Used to center stage? put him in a long line policed by pacing, barely contained armed guards)
I know! How about finding a magic lantern and asking a genii to help? Who knows what details will float in if you try that method!
Heaven knows I need this list. Characterization is my weakness (or at least ONE of my weaknesses). I have snippets of stories (categorized as “Fiction Going Nowhere) with characters called nothing more than “he” or “she.” Seriously they’re almost non-people, just carriers of Story. Sheesh!
I think that kind of thing won’t fly far in the long term, so… here I am, working at making better characters.
If you’re a writer, too, and interested in a much more detailed and informative take on characterization, I recommend Holly Lisle’s How to Create a Character Clinic. It’s to the point, filled with helpful exercises and… and it’s been far too long since I read it! I think that’s now on the top of my list! [scurries off to read it]
*** How about you? Do you have any tried and true tricks? Any character-revealing practices you rely on? Share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!***