Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Discovering Characters: A Proper Introduction

I’ve mentioned before that I have been having difficulty with my current middle grade project. I’ve realized that my stopping point boils down to, “Now what would that character say?” or “What else would this character do?” But I don’t have any good answers. I’ve re-written and brainstormed and re-written again only to figure out that I don’t know my characters well enough. I’ve read books, attended conferences, looked online and read in my genre. I’ve filled out character questionnaires and done character interviews, but even then I ask myself, “Well, how am I supposed to know what my character has in his pocket?” or “I have no idea what she would say about her best friend.” Every answer I come up with feels forced and doesn’t help me get any closer to understanding my character.
Recently a friend of mine and member of my critique group, Heather Clark, attended WIFYR and went to a class taught by Martine Leavitt that changed her life and as a result, mine. You absolutely have to read her recent blog about it on Real Writer’s Write. In using the “Mechanics of Desire.” I’ve finally grasped the question that has alluded me for years: How do I develop my character?  
In recent brainstorming sessions I’ve started with a miniscule idea of who my characters are (on both sides of the coin--protagonist and antagonist). Then to flesh them out I’ve started a document for each main character. I write a separate line for each aspect of my character and fill in:
Emotional Desire
Concrete Desire
Controlling Beliefs
Announced Strategies
By doing this I really get into the character’s head. I understand who they are and why. From here, any quirks they have, skills they have, or objects in their pockets only make the character that much deeper. By understanding my characters desires and motivations, I can easily go from one scene to the next, which is where my other plotting resources (Dan Well’s Seven Point Plot Structure and Craig Nybo’s “How to Write a Novel”) will come in handy.

I have come farther in brainstorming this particular version of my story than I have ever been before, just through fleshing out the characters. I think that once I’m done figuring out my main characters the rest will come. I can’t wait to write “The End” on this first version of my story and get back into editing. Have fun discovering your characters and bringing them to life. I know I will!