I received this request from a reader last week.
“Thank u so much for the prompts!! could u mayb please write abt how u get to know ur character? & the charcters devlpment?”
There are oodles of places where you can find lists of character traits that you might find handy when you are trying to make up a fictional person using nothing more than your pencil and the wet clay of your imagination. They tend to look something like this:
High school & reputation
This summer char. has been..
Next year char. will…
Is afraid of
Physical quirks, nervous habits
[note – I wrote that list and have used it many times]
But for me, a list like this is just the starting place. It is my introduction to the character. If you never explore your character beyond what is in the list, you tend to wind up with a person that is shallow or one-dimensional.
That’s why a lot of my writing prompts have you take your character and put her into situations to see how she will react. There is so much about writing fiction that happens at a subconscious level that you can rely on your imagination to supply you with answers as long as you have the courage to ask the questions.
Here are some questions that I am asking myself about a character today:
Why did they wait so long to get her the car?
Where did she live before the move?
How did she try to avoid having to move?
Who was the last person she felt was a friend? Where is that person now? What happened between them?
What if she deliberately takes the wrong turn? How long before anyone notices? Will she tell them it was on purpose? Why or why not?
As I scribble the answers to my questions, doors open in my mind and I find new paths of the story I am trying to tell.
Ready…. “It might seem that the writer needs a gift of mimicry, like an impersonator, to achieve this variety of voices. But it isn’t that. It’s more like what a serious actor does, sinking self in character-self. It’s a willingness to be the characters, letting what they think and say rise from inside them. It’s a willingness to share control with one’s creation.” Ursula K. Le Guin
Set….. turn off your preconceived notions about your character, along with the Internet and phone
Today’s prompt: Fill out the list of characteristics above. Then write ten questions about your character’s actions and motivations for the actions that you don’t have answers for yet.
Bonus points: answer your questions.