Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting to Know Your Characters

Another thing I learned at WIFYR (again, from Kathleen Duey) is how to get into your character's head.
Good stories come from the main character's voice and thoughts NOT from the writer.
Here are a few things you can do to find out who your character really is and to get them talking.

Start with an interview.
Not the kind where you've got a list of questions you want answered. Just sit down with your character as though they're a stranger on the bus. Just chat. Ask them about the Spiderman tattoo on their arm. Or start with something simple, ask where they're headed. Let them talk. Don't force anything, and don't be too intrusive.

If your character doesn't want to talk to you, then approach her in a different way. Maybe your character will talk to her grandmother. Or her best friend. Or her stuffed animal. Maybe she'll talk to herself in the mirror, and you can hide out in the bathtub behind the curtain listening in and jotting down notes. (Does that sound creepy?) Do what you have to do to write your story. But get it from your character's point of view. Nobody wants to listen to you tell as story about some character.

Sometimes our characters have things that are none of our business. And maybe they'll tell us that. Just let is slip. If you want to know something and they aren't talking, then move on. Get the story that they do want to tell.

Keep writing :)


  1. The 100 questions (you can get it online) to ask your character is helpful as well. I did that with my latest protag and it got me thinking...

  2. I love this advice! The WIFYR Conference sounds amazing. Alas, I'm so far from Utah! Good to know about, though. ;)

  3. Thanks Holmberg. I'll have to look up those questions. Maybe I'll pick some of my favorites to share later.

    Heather, if you ever get the chance to come to WIFYR you should do it. We've had people come from far places (even NY) ;) I bet there are some good writing conferences on the east side of the states as well. I'll look into it and post what I find. :)

  4. I haven't tried this before, actually, though I have seen questions to ask your MC everywhere. I normally know my MC really well, and I will just write scenes with them interacting with different kinds of people to see what kind of person they are. Maybe that's the same thing? Whatever works I suppose :)