So I’ve been doing something pretty fun with my characters in order to get to know them better. I think it will help you too, and will be beneficial to your writing as well.
Remember how when you are in the middle of a draft, you should be trying to write at least a little bit everyday? It helps to keep your mind on the story and keep up the momentum that we all know is hard to get back if it is lost. The momentum to write. Where you get to a point where you want to write all the time.
You know, when you blow off your friends to sit alone in the dark with your laptop.
This method will help you to develop your characters further as well as keep you writing every day.
First, get an empty notebook or document. Completely separate from your novel. This is going to help you not only get to know your characters better and help you keep the momentum, but also help you plan your story.
The next step isn’t as weird as most of my methods. It just looks that way. Go to the internet and find journal questions or prompts. These question were originally made for writing about your own life or yourself, in a journal. I tried this out one day, but auickly got bored of writing about myself and decided to do something different with them. Here are a few sites that I’ve found with the kind of thing I’m talking about:
If you are writing in a notebook, then you’ll want to print and cut out all of these questions. But that’s a lot, so I recommend just using a document and copy and pasting everything. If you do cut them out, paste them into the notebook with space in between.
Okay, this is where you start learning a little more about your characters and start to get into the fun part. Keep this document or notebook for planning or those days when you don’t have time to actually sit down and write a chapter. On those days, or if you just feel like planning or getting in the mind of your characters, go to the notebook/doc.
Scroll/flip through and choose a random question. Read it, and think about which character to answer it as. This is the hard part. I guess you can write for several characters, but just choose one for now. Then answer the question in the eyes of that character. Remember that if your story is in first person, you write in first person. If you tell the story in third person, write in third person. Same goes for second.
If you are writing in a document, then write as much as you want. If you are writing in a notebook, challenge yourself to write as much as it takes to fill up the space between the questions.
What this does is helps you to get into the shoes of your character, learning more about them and how that might affect how they act in the story. It is also practice in writing in their voice. You characters should each have a different voice, a different way they talk, different words that they choose to use. Practice is good. That way, when you start to write as them, you can just slip into the mindset you developed when answering the prompts. I use this as a warm up for whenever I sit down to write as that character.
It could be a warm up. It could end up somewhere in your novel as a flashback or monologue. It could even be for characters in the story that you don’t write from. Maybe you just see them in conversation sometimes and need to get a grasp on how they would act. It is actually really useful. I’ve done prompts for several characters in the backstories that you don’t even meet in the book.
In Unique Characters (part 1), I mentioned that you should know everything about the characters, even if it doesn’t matter the story. Their favorite song. The time they were born. Everything.
It’s another way we get into their heads.
I’ll give you an example. I keep all of my questions and prompts in a painted mason jar, and just reach in and pull out a new one each time I go to write.
As one of my warm ups before writing during NaNoWriMo, I got the question, “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” I decided to write from the point of view of my main character, Rusty, because she underwent a huge change from the backstory to the present day. I wrote this:
When I look in the mirror, all I can see is a stranger. She has my auburn hair, but it’s unrulier and more frazzled than I’ve ever seen it. She has green eyes like mine, but they aren’t as bright with ambition and spirit. They are bloodshot and puffy from her tears. She has a bruise and cut on her forehead. A scar across her cheek. I don’t know who she is. Now I don’t even know her name.
That isn’t Anna Blake staring back at me. That’s not the girl who took care of her little brother and slipped money into the peanut butter jar to keep her family afloat. That girl failed. Her family was killed. Her life was trashed. And she is the only one to blame.
The girl in the mirror isn’t just a stranger. She is a criminal. She is a thief. A liar.
This is what Anna Blake has become. And I don’t think she is ever going to be able to go back.
I ended up putting this into the story, because it fit in a chapter really well. Not only did I get to know my character better, but I also found 171 words to put towards my word count.
Here’s my challenge for you: Pick one prompt. Just one. It could be one from the sites I provided, or one you find on your own. Maybe you come up with a bunch of your own original ones. I only use ones I find on the internet because they are outside my little creativity-box. I’m afraid that if I come up with my own, I’ll only make ones that I know how to answer. And this should be a challenge.
Pick one prompt. Choose a character to write as. Take into account the point of view that your story is in, and then write. That’s all you have to do. If you like this method of characterization, then keep going. If you find one day that you only have ten or twenty minutes to write, then try it again. It also helps to raise plot-holes to your attention.
If you really like this, use it as a warm up. Use it as something to keep yourself writing when you are out of the house. I pick a new one each day and glue it into my notebook, then end up writing it at some point throughout the day (usually when I should be doing work or taking notes in class). Whenever I get that energy to write, I always want to satisfy it. Momentum, remember?
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!