Friday, June 8, 2012

Becoming BFFs with your Characters

What am I reading now?  The Girl in the Clockwork Collar (Kady Cross, Steampunk Chronicles #2)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  I read the ebook called The Strange Case of Findley Jane last October and loved it. I didn’t know at the time that it would have other companion books. While cruising around a website for galleys I saw this story, of course that meant I had to read The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles #1) and loved it--5 stars! Then I read this one. 5 stars again! 
The author wanted the book to be a “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets teen X-Men.” Oh yeah! She did it. Great steampunk setting and a full cast of strong main and supporting characters. Any one of the characters could carry a story—they’re all interesting and I have a ton of questions about each. Hopefully the series will last a long time so we can get to know each of them and their stories.
            Findley is a sixteen-year-old girl, demon, girl, demon. Depends on the day. You’d think that would make her a less-than-likeable character, but it doesn’t. I’ve enjoyed all three related books by this author.

Becoming BFFs with your Characters
This doesn't mean you are going to go easy on them. Or that you want everything in their "lives" to be fine. Or even that you want them to be happy.
This does mean that you know them. How they'll respond. What choices they will make and why. It also means that you can answer these questions* about each of them (main characters and supporting characters):

  • What is the character's name?
  • Write a one-sentence summary of the storyline for this character. 
  • Example: (age, gender, defining role in life) who (describe the conflicting circumstance) and wants ______________ but instead is _______________.
  • What is this character's motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
  • What is this character's goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
  • What is the character's conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
  • The character's epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?
  • Write a one-paragraph summary of the character's storyline.

Getting to know your characters is perhaps the most important part of writing your novel. If there are places where scenes are flat, or the middle sags, or there is general slow motion, it may be because the story doesn't show enough about each character to develop them fully for the reader. The reader just isn't interested in what they do or say.

*I believe the origination of these questions is from the Snowflake Method for writing novels.

Quote for the day:


Leslie Pugh said...

The books you recommended sound intriguing. I hate to admit this but I've never read a steampunk book. Not yet, anyway. :)

And thanks for the info on becoming bffs with characters. I need to work on that a little more myself.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I love these questions. I'm copying them and saving them. Just what I was looking for.

Cathy said...

That quote cracks me up. I love the info. on your blog Canda.