Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog–What a Character!

Welcome to September! Geez, where has the year gone?!?!?!?!

Anywho, a new month means a new sisterhood topic. This month, Sarah Fine at The Strangest Situation has come up with an awesome question!

She asks:

How do you develop your characters? Do you flesh out the details before (like writing as that character, writing backstory, or filling out a questionnaire about their preferences and history) or invent as you go?

I have a pretty consistent pattern when it comes to decision making and idea development.

I let my subconscious (or, as Freud would say, unconscious) mind do all the work. Sounds easy, right?

Problem is, my subconscious mind often goes on its own schedule so it’s not like I can say, “Hey, Subconscious, I need a story idea and a cast of characters by next Thursday.” Cuz my subconscious mind will say, “Pfft. Sure, no problem, but you’ll have to wait.”

So that’s what I do.

It may take a couple days or it may takes weeks and months for my brain to come up with something, but once it does, then I know I’m ready to pursue the idea.

Okay, okay. I’m hearing some of you say, “But why don’t you just free write or write character sketches or something, to get the ideas flowing?”

Those are GREAT ideas, but they don’t work for me. If I actively make a character up, it feels forced, fake, and *gasp!* cliche.

Additionally, if I get going along in a project and an idea strikes me, I may include it in as part of my character’s development. In that regard, it is an evolving process too.

I often find my dreams to be a wealth of information as well. But, really, that’s my subconscious mind at work too, you know?

How about you? How do you develop your characters?

Lydia will be taking the reins next week to describe how she develops her characters. I can’t wait to read it!

Every Wednesday

17 comments on “Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog–What a Character!

  1. Lynn Rush says:

    I let them develop as we go. I’ve been known to change things MID-writing on that first draft. I just make notes along the way, reminding myself to change something during the edits. I often do mind maps for my characters. Just brainstorms of thoughts, characteristics, etc, but mostly let them drive as I’m typing.

  2. Scary, it’ll be xmas soon! I let them develop as I write and sometimes go abck and change things depending on how they are evolving and how thier backstory is appearing. I think if I ever wrote a series, I’d do profiles to keep them consistent.

  3. Charli Mac says:

    I let them chat with me on their own schedule. When I get enough info to write something I start typing. Usually music inspires a scene or situation and the character develops from there.

    Recently a book cover gave me the idea for my first YA novel. No music at all. I’ve let this little chap evolve in me wee noggin and I typed out three pages last week. Me and the kid are still figuring each other out but I love the journey.

  4. I figure them out before hand because who they are and their back stories guide the plot. And since I’m a plotter, it makes sense for me to have figured out my characters first. đŸ™‚

  5. Lydia K says:

    So cool to hear how it happens for you. I won’t dish on my methods (mwaahahaha) that’s for next week. It’s not that sinister, really. đŸ™‚

  6. Free writing doesn’t work for me, either. But I’ll save more thoughts for my turn at the question. đŸ™‚

  7. I put down the bare bones, what they look like, where they’re from, some major things that happened to them in their past, but then try to let those things show me as I write how a character would react and what they’d do. With one book, I did do a detailed questionnaire, but after the MC’s took 4 pages, I was tired of it so the rest of the characters didn’t get equal time on the development end as far as what developed before I wrote the first word of the story.

  8. Donna Hole says:

    When I get an idea, it comes with a character: usually doing something, or thinking something. As I write what the situation is, the character starts to develop, and so does the plot of the story. I get to know my character as I write about them.

    Its and evolving process for me too, because there comes a point when I know enough about my character that I have to make a character profile to keep important info straight. And to keep them “in character” đŸ™‚

    Whatever process works for you though, that’s what you should stick with.


  9. Kendall Grey says:

    I usually have a pretty good idea of the general characteristics, but all sorts of unexpected stuff comes out as the words hit the page. I had an annoying, sniveling, sycophantically pathetic character in one of my early drafts who I ended up completely rewriting into a guy my readers now unilaterally agree is the hottest dude in the trilogy (even hotter than the hero)–a Fyre Elemental BAD boy named Sinnder. He’s so yummy, he’s getting his own book after the trilogy ends. I’m *so* glad I changed him from Whiny Sinnder to Sizzling-God-of-Quivering-Butterflies-in-Stomachs Sinnder. đŸ™‚

  10. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-(traveling)-pants girl, too! Great post. Can’t wait to read Lydia’s next week!

  11. Vicki Tremper says:

    I’ve tried all that stuff and it kind of depends on how strongly I feel the character. Sometimes it helps me to just force through the interviews and questionnaires and just start writing, and then figure out the rest of the characterization as I go. This means a lot of character-related revision later on, however. I also like how Donald Maass makes you think about character in How to Write the Breakout Novel.

  12. I understand what you mean by not forcing character development or they come out fake. Sometimes I’ll start writing, then use interviews if I feel stuck. Once in my critique group, we took a scene from the MC’s POV and wrote it from another character’s POV which helped us understand how different characters react to the same situation.

    Dreams can be rather helpful too.

  13. Different way to create. My approach is simple. I make lists of qualities and discover more about my characters once I start writing.

  14. You’ve got to do what works for you. My process is a little like yours, I have to wait around for muse, but I also sit down every day and ask it some indirect questions about the stories and the people. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  15. Develop my characters? Oh! We’re supposed to do that?? (Just kidding.) But really Laura, when I first started writing I just thought stuff like that kinda worked itself out. Not true! HA!

    I have interviewed my characters. And here’s one. I write a ten word sentence about their day. I got that from Writers Digest and just added to it. I made it about their day instead of mine. Pretty cool and teaches me to write tighter without all those filler words.

    Great post. đŸ™‚ How are you?

  16. Ciara Knight says:

    Characters let me know who they are, then I plan a plot to torture them. đŸ™‚

  17. […] Diamond posted recently about how she develops her characters. Her method is  interesting–I’ve never heard anyone describe their development […]

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