Hey there everyone! Having a good November so far? I’m writing a number of these NaNo Special posts in advance, to give myself more time to write during NaNoWriMo… But I’m sure I’m having a lot of fun and frustration in your present and my future. “But wait, Jaluna, why are you so certain you’d be frustrated today?” Well, writing is hard… Especially if your characters seem to have a life of their own. You’d think that’s a good thing, but it’s not that great when they go off script and lead you in a direction that’s interesting, but blocks you from getting to what you needed.
To me, my characters are like my children- and I have a LOT of children in this case. They love to take me down alleys I wouldn’t have thought t, as if they’re trying to find a shortcut to their conclusion. Sometimes, my kids from another story idea start to whine about not getting enough attention. Basically, I feel a lot like a parent with many children, perhaps like my doctor whom has eight of his own. And yet, I’m not a parent. I’m only a writer- a writer with childishly defiant characters that won’t accept the rules I enforce on them.
I think this way often, however. I remember that my characters are my kids- and some of my kids have kids of their own already. I ended up becoming a fan of parenting blogs and following twitter accounts that talk about their kids a lot. I always make it clear when I respond to them that I’m not a parent, and most of them are totally understanding when I describe my characters the way I do, surprisingly. Some of them give me advice on behaviors I can do for myself that will improve my connection with them, in fact. I’m lucky parents can be so understanding- just like my father is.
Of course, another big issue when writing about a character is generally knowing as much as possible about them. When is their birthday? What makes them tic? What color was their favorite when they were 5 compared to when they were 25? No matter what inane piece of information, I want to know it all with my ‘children’. I want to know their life story and then some. I want to know their goals in life outside the plot. I want to know what led them to the plot, and what the plot means to them compared to me.
For me, the built in template for character development in Scrivener works great- but there’s always a sense that something’s missing. I can edit it as I please, luckily, but I often just keep a separate character form I can fill out for each character that’s more extensive. I’ve seen character charts that are a hundred questions, and others that are two-hundred fifty. What I like to do is take one of the larger forms and crop it, taking only the questions that fit my needs. I’m not likely to need to know anything about magic if it’s a fictional world without it (though this is just an example- my work always has some fantasy and sci-fi inside it!).
I think the things I often find myself cropping are things like specific body parts that don’t fit, such as scales, tails and all that fun stuff. I do have occasional characters that need those parts, but for the most part my characters tend to be humanoid, so I’ve yet to need those particular sections.
That’s all I can really say about my characters. They’re the proof of a lot of things: my love of children, my dark side, my inquisitive side and my thirst for control that I still can’t seem to get right. Writers, tell me about yourself: what do you think of your characters as? Are they just characters, or are they something more special? I’d love to hear how others plan out their characters and think about them in general. I could use some new tips to get to know mine even better, that’s for sure!
Until next time! Happy NaNo!