Knowing Your Characters

2016 #ROW80 Round 4: Check-In #13

Funny thing about knowing your characters… I normally don’t.

Before I can start writing a story, I need to know three essential things: the two MCs names & the book title. Without those, I can’t write a single word. I try to know my characters age as well since I write mostly about middle-aged men. Other than that, I let the characters tell me everything about them. And sometimes, by the end of the story, I still don’t know every fact.

I realized that today more than any other time. I was asked by my publisher to give them some basic information about one of my characters and I drew a blank. I knew his name, some family history, his sexuality, and his age. I had to think about everything else. How I found out the information I needed? I let the character talk to me again. I asked him questions and answered them from his perspective. I might not know everything about them, but I sure know how they think and react.

In the end, everything worked out. I wrote the post I needed for my book promotion, learned a bit more about one of my characters, and got the inspiration for a scene in the next book in the series. A win, win indeed.


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  1. Because I deal more in novels. I do some biographical freewriting and other character work before I start, and I won’t write if the characters aren’t having at least a few wisps of conversations in my head.

    And they still surprise me again and again as they come to life in the drafting and editing processes.

    Very cool that you had the chance to learn more about your character!

  2. I had read an article somewhere that you should do a full blown interview on each of your main characters. Write down as much of their history and characteristics that they are willing to divulge. Even cut out a picture of them from a magazine or off the internet.

    I can’t say that I have gone that in depth with my characters, but I know that I know stuff about them that probably won’t come up in my story about them.

    And one more thing, I can’t figure out the title for my books until I’m done writing them. In fact I was working on my second edit in my first novel before I came up with the title.

  3. I like to write bios about my characters, and I write them as if the character is actually talking right to me. Not only does it help me learn a good bit about them but it helps me find their voice, too. and still, a lot of the time, they end up surprising me as I write the story.

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