Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Characters are people too.

I really, really love character development. I've written a solid outline (sitting at 22K words, still needs a bit of tweaking) and now I've moved on to some world-building and character development. For me, this works best because I know how the story goes, I know who does what and why, and I'm starting to have a good feel for what these people—characters—are really like.

But it's not quite a complete picture. Not yet.

To really flesh out my characters I use photos and character sketches. I try to cram as much detail into those sketches as possible: nicknames, meanings, relationships, dates, physical descriptions, strengths, weaknesses, internal and external conflicts, history, special abilities, distinguishing marks and personal items, habits, likes, dislikes, etc. I usually pull a photo off the web of someone who looks similar and use Photoshop to make a few quick and dirty changes to the appearance, where it doesn't mesh with what I have in mind for that character.

***fyi, the Mac program Scrivener is AWESOME for this kind of stuff. Go download the free trial right now. I'm not kidding.***

I like to start with a character's history. In life, I always find that the best way to understand a person is to understand their history, their background, where they come from. It can tell you so much about why they do what they do, or think the way they think. Once I have a history in place, other details fall in line. A unique twitch, habit or scar resulting from something in their past. A personal trinket or token they carry around from someone or some time in their life story. What drives him or her? What secrets is he or she keeping?

At the end of the day, I've got more than a name paired with a personality. I've got a person.

Because characters are people too!

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