Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writer's Club Wednesday: Character Definition

When I first began to write stories, back in elementary school, I would always make up character sketches. I would jot down how old the characters were, how they looked, what their basic personality was. Favorite color, favorite flavor of ice cream, favorite animal, what their parents did, if they had any pets, siblings, or hobbies. It was part of the fun of creating the story.

As I got older I didn't like to do that anymore. It was too confining. A character is more than a list of traits! A character is a living, breathing, organic thing! Instead of creating character sketches, I would get to know my characters as I wrote. I would let them walk onto the stage and then I'd watch them to see what they'd do rather than starting out by making all the choices for them.

That method created a few really wonderful characters, ones that surprised and delighted me, but most of the characters that sprung up that way were living, breathing, organic balls of mush. They had no definition. I have one book I wrote, in first person, that I still haven't decided what the main character's hair and eye color ought to be. I spent a whole book with him, and I don't know if he's ever had any pets. It just never came up. But maybe it should have, and it would have if I'd known from the start.

So now I want to find a way to blend these two methods of character development. I love the crisp, sharp detail I get from knowing a list of traits, but I also want the characters to feel natural and to be able to change and adapt to the story.

How do you create your characters?

And don't forget! Today is PI day at writer's club. Bring pie. And all readings must include either the word pie or pi. See you there!

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