December 17, 2009

Deeper Character Insight

You know all those fun/annoying quizzes you see floating around Facebook and LiveJournal? Well, I found a fantastic post by KidLit an What Makes a Character. At first, I thought this was going to be like every other article you see about character development--basically, someone in the industry telling you that your character needs a "good personality" and "individual voice". Not super helpful.

She even went and posted a list of basic questions you should answer about your main character. Just for fun, I started answering the questions for my main characters for Shadow Bound (Rachel) and Song of the Muse (Gwen). I was amazed at how much insight came from these simple questions!

If you're interested, I've posted the questions below, along with the answers for both of these characters. I highly recommend you do the same for yours!

  • What is your character’s nature? Are they shy? Gregarious? A homebody? A great girlfriend? A backstabber? (Examples of personality and nature are endless…)

  • Rachel is a pretty private person. She's a good student, shy, a homebody, and has a few really close friends. She has an inner strength that she doesn't yet know about.

    Gwen is quick-witted, sarcastic, outgoing, strong-willed, and passionate. She has a bit of a temper.

  • What is your character’s physicality? Are they fat? Thin? Awkward? Do they have some kind of physical issue? Are they a slouch? (Also endless…)

  • Rachel has a soft but slim physique with red hair and pale skin.

    Gwen is a runner and is pretty fit with a pixie haircut. She's beautiful.

  • What is your character’s self-esteem? Is there something about themselves they want to change? Why?

  • Rachel second-guesses her decisions, but I don't think she feels down about herself because of them unless it causes someone else to suffer.

    Gwen knows she's not the best, but works her butt off to get better. She feels inadequate when she compares herself to the masters and worries that her ADHD will hold her back in life. Other than that, she's super confident and no one would know she has any insecurities.

  • What are your character’s secrets? Are there things they’ve never told anyone? Do they wish they can tell someone? Why?

  • Rachel can see ghosts. She helps the dead to move on to the next life. Also, she has a past that she keeps hidden. Only her mom knows about these secrets. She feels she needs to keep these secrets in order to stay safe and to be liked.

    Gwen is being coached in secret by a man she's never met. She wants to keep this secret because he obviously doesn't want anyone to know and she would hate to betray him.

  • What does everyone else know (or think they know) about your character? Is it true? What does your character wish everyone knew about them? Why?

  • Everyone sees Rachel as the smart, trustworthy, girl-next-door. They don't know that she communicates with the dead, which kind of taints that image.

    Everyone knows Gwen is obsessed with music, especially singing. What they don't know is that music is the only respite she gets from the nearly constant bombardment of thoughts (caused by ADHD).

  • What are your characters goals in life and moment to moment? Their wants in life and moment to moment? Their needs in life and moment to moment? Their frustrations in life and moment to moment? Why, for all of the above?

  • Rachel dreams of going to a good college where she plans to study social work. She wants to help battered women most of all. She wants to keep herself and her mom safe and protect her secrets. She also wants to be loved, since she's never really had a boyfriend.

    Gwen needs peace of mind. Not only immediately, through music, but long-term. She wants to have a career that allows her to be free of her disability. She wants to eliminate anything that keeps her from progressing in her music because it could steal away the peace and quiet that the music gives her.

  • What is their motivation in life and moment to moment? Why?

  • Rachel just wants a normal, quiet life. It's why she keeps her gifts a secret, why she wants to go to college, why she chooses her friends so carefully, and why she spends so much time making sure her life stays safe and quiet.

    Gwen's motivation comes from her ADHD. She struggles to keep it under control, and right now music provides the best escape from it.

  • What is their “normal” baseline? What is life usually like? (This usually gets disturbed pretty early on in the story.)

  • Rachel goes to school, gets good grades, and helps out the dead when she can.

    Gwen struggles in school, struggles with her music, and tries to progress as much as she can on her own.

  • What are your character’s relationships with other characters? What is the most important relationship? The best? The worst? The most fulfilling? The most frustrating? The one the character most wants to change? The one that will never change? Why?

  • Rachel's relationship with her mom is huge. Her mom is the only one that shares her secrets. They've been through a lot together. The worst part about her relationships is that, aside from her best friend Lisa and her mom, Rachel doesn't really have anyone to talk to. She has a very small circle.

    Gwen has a group of friends. Things are awkward with Dylan ever since he asked her out and she turned him down. His current girlfriend is cool toward her at best. Mark keeps distracting her from her rehearsals, so she gets pretty frustrated with him. Caroline, her roommate and best friend, is a fantastic listener. They share everything together.

  • What is the character’s unique perspective on life? (I will talk more about this when I talk about voice.)

  • Rachel sees the afterlife as a place of rest and comfort. She's not afraid of death, only of leaving her loved ones behind.

    Gwen sees the world through a performer's eyes. She feels a song when she walks on stage and is guided by an inner creativity that's only present when she works on performing arts.

  • What is the character’s past? What is their present? What is their future?

  • Rachel had a tough childhood and lives in fear because of it. Her gift gives her something to do. Hopefully one day she'll be a social worker and a boyfriend.

    Gwen had a dark period when her mom died, but seeing the way her dad pulled through gave her a personal relationship with God. Her future has to have something to do with music or she'll go insane.


    Patti said...

    Looks like a good exercise.

    Unknown said...

    I know! I'm going to use it for my other characters to flesh them out a bit more.

    .i2Style{ font:bold 24px Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif; font-style:normal; color:#ffffff; background:#67b310; border:0px none #ffffff; text-shadow:0px -1px 1px #222222; box-shadow:2px 2px 5px #000000; -moz-box-shadow:2px 2px 5px #000000; -webkit-box-shadow:2px 2px 5px #000000; border-radius:90px 10px 90px 10px; -moz-border-radius:90px 10px 90px 10px; -webkit-border-radius:90px 10px 90px 10px; width:96px; padding:20px 43px; cursor:pointer; margin:0 auto; } .i2Style:active{ cursor:pointer; position:relative; top:2px; }