Getting to Know Your Characters

This morning I went for a run (something I try to do on a regular–if often reluctant–basis) and a few laps into my run, a character appeared in my head, complete with tantalizing glimpses of her story. And then she started talking. For the rest of my run, the child (she’s eleven) would not stop talking.

This was a new experience for me–usually I have a vague idea of a character, but I have to plot out some scenes and plunk the character into the scene to really get to know them. I write down preliminary background sketches in a separate document, and add details as the character starts to emerge in scenes.

But not this time. This time, the character feels so real to me that I think I’d like to sit down and interview her–just to see what she says.

Obviously, authors can get to know their characters a number of different ways. Jenna Peterson suggests using a character template. Another exercise, by teacher Susan Atland, suggests keeping a diary of your character for a couple of days.YA Author Anna Staniszewski also has some great ideas for different ways to get to know your characters. As a visual person myself, I like the idea of trying the visual collage.

What about you? What do you do to get to know your characters? (Especially new ones?)

2 thoughts on “Getting to Know Your Characters

  1. For my current WIP, I knew where I wanted the plot to go, but I was having trouble visualizing the characters. My 4 year old wanted to color with me, so I started trying to draw the characters. I'm NOT an artist (as you well know), but I found myself putting in little details (who was shy, who was sneaky and manipulative, etc.) that really helped me get to know my characters. It's one of the best exercises I've done!

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  2. I love to imagine their voice. I think you can tell so much about a person by the way they talk, the tone of their voice, their dialect. I imagine conversations I would have, the little nuances they would show while talking.

    I also like to imagine what they look like. This usually involves mental mergers of celebrities to get just the look I think they need.

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