Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where'd He Come From?

“Take the time to get to know your characters as if they were good friends, even the unpleasant characters.” – Brandi Reissenweber in Gotham Writers' Workshop Writing Fiction
I think more about my characters’ backgrounds than I used to, and it makes a difference for me in writing my stories. I better understand why a character acts as she does. This knowledge also helps me determine how a character should respond in a particular scene.

For a novella I completed recently, I created charts for the main characters before I started writing. It was an interesting exercise, but I found I learned as much, or more, about them as the story progressed. Still, the chart was an important part of the process. As I uncovered new information about a character, I added this to his chart. Sometimes I changed my mind regarding an initial assumption and changed the entry to match my new realization about the person. The chart helped me remember things like physical characteristics and relationships to other characters. For example, the protagonist’s first girlfriend played a continuing role in the story. The chart helped me keep track of things like the girl’s name, when and where they met and how long they dated.

Will I create a character chart before I begin my next project? I don’t know. I will think about the main character and his background; and, if I don’t create a chart beforehand, I’ll have a piece of paper or blank document ready to write down what I learn about my characters as the story develops.

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