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When I first started, I thought all you had to do is write a book. Can you say *naive*, boys and girls? Join me on my journey as a pre- published writer looking to see my name on the cover of a book. I'll talk about all the bumps, bruises, joys and frustrations I encounter along the way.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Author, Know Thy Character

How well do you know your characters when you start a new story?

Out of curiosity, this was a question I put up at Romance Divas, and of course, I received the variety of answers I expected. Almost everything from "My stories have characters?" to "I know those folks inside and out."

I had been wondering because, as I've blogged before, I've been reading Karen S. Wiesner's First Draft in 30 Days. The first thing she has you do is a character chart. Hers isn't as intense as some I've seen--I have a copy of one somewhere that's 20-30 pages--but, as I said, it got me wondering.

When I start a story, I'd have to say I have varying degrees of knowledge about my characters, depending on the story. With IH, I dreamed the story, which means I knew the whole story. But did I know Chris or Teresa's religion or favorite color? Nope. I still don't, because that information really wasn't pertinent to the story.

But there are people who know everything there is to know about their characters before the first line of the story is written. They know favorite colors, favorite foods, religion, minute details about childhood . . . everything. And that works for them.

But not me.

I tried one of those extensive character sheets once, and the phrase "Who cares?" passed my lips more frequently than the answers to any questions. I tried a character interview with Jackson and Rebecca in SR (this was for a workshop), to no avail. Rebecca started wondering if she'd dusted the picture frames in the upstairs hallway, and Jackson crossed his arms, rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, and began whistling.

It would seem I just don't work that way.

My characters tend to unfold, reveal themselves to me during the writing process. I discover things about them as I move along. In IH, Teresa started out to be very much like me. Almost a carbon copy. "They" say you should write what you know, so it was easy in the beginning to write her actions and reactions according to how I might act or react to any given situation. But she didn't stay that way.

Eventually, Teresa became her own person, her thoughts and actions very different from my own. Even though all my female characters are some part of me in their base form, they're no longer me. Yes, I can be snarky and sarcastic, but nowhere near Dakota or Braelyn. I have self-esteem and self-worth issues, but I ain't got nothing on Teresa, Rebecca, or Aine. And Keelin? I don't know enough about her yet to know what parts of her are me--except I do share her fondness for dark hair on a man.

I find it very interesting that as authors, many of us share common goals, yet as with most other things, our journeys toward those goals couldn't be more different.


PROGRESS: Got three hours in yesterday toward my 20 hour BIAW goal this week.


  • I'm pretty much like you. I can't do the whole character sheet.

    By Blogger Silma, at 8:02 AM  

  • I'm with you. I could care less what my characters' favorite colors or ice cream is. If I get too detailed with the character sheet, my characters become inflexible. Half the fun of writing a book is discovering things about your characters, and if you created a character who is inflexible, you often miss vital, last-minute details that might have helped the story!

    By Blogger Larissa, at 8:19 AM  

  • I do bits and pieces of a character sheet. A lot of it I just know instinctively. My characters tend to come to me pretty well formed.

    And as I writer historicals, a lot of the character sheet stuff doesn't always apply as much of it refers to modern stuff. Though I suppose I could replace Favourite Movie with Favourite Play *g*.

    I do work out the GMC early on though - HAVE to have that.

    By Blogger Tess, at 9:37 AM  

  • Thanks, ladies. Sometimes you get on some of these writing lists and people go on and on about how they know everything about their characters. I don't know about you, but it starts to make me question my methods and abilities. At least I know now I'm not the only one who works the way I do.

    By Blogger Lynn, at 7:27 PM  

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Location: Atlanta-ish, Georgia, United States

I'm a wife, a mom, an operating room nurse, a writer, a hobby photographer, and a music lover who knits and crochets. And I'm fairly certain I've lost my mind.

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