Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Developing Interesting Characters

I'm trying to develop interesting characters. Is it happening in the story I'm working on? I hope so. Because I've been focused on this I checked an entire stack of books out of the library about bringing characters to life and so forth. There has to be something interesting in one of them. Right?

Some of the books talk about dialogue and making it real which I guess helps bring them to life. I can see that. But sometimes I find myself in the middle of too much dialogue and not enough action. Something needs to happen and surely through their actions and reactions I can help them come to life.

I realized something while walking one day.

Years ago I read The Color Code by Hartman Taylor. I've used what I learned in this book for years now to understand my children and their different personalities. We have all the colors in our family. With six children we're bound to have variety. Right? We have quiet peacemakers, to flamboyant performers to children who can't stand it when they are not in control.

I realized that my characters are like my children. They have personalities that fall somewhere into the color code. Once I decide where they fit I can better know how they react to a certain situation.  Maybe I don't always need to stop as I'm writing and decide how a blue or a white or a red would react to this situation. But when I get stuck it has made it easier to remember that because my mc is very yellow, he's not going to think real hard about the situation before he jumps in. But his sister who is a combination of blue and white is going to hesitate while worrying about the safety of her brother and begging him not to do it.

I've found other books that try to analyze personalities in great detail, but I like the simplicity of the Color Code. Probably because I already understand it.

What tools or exercises do you use to bring your characters to life? How do you decide how they will react?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What I Learned from NaNoWriMo

Let me say right up front that I didn't meet the goal of 50,000 words. But I wrote about 20,000 words more than I would have written otherwise.

I learned to push myself to a new level. The greatest thing I discovered was the idea of doing 20 minutes sprints. I can focus really well for about that long. If I know I'm racing the timer I find that I do pretty well at keeping at it. When I got stuck  and didn't know what to write, but was still racing the timer I created a box right in the middle of my manuscript and started interviewing one of the characters. I asked them every question I could think of about that particular situation. I eventually found something that triggered in my head and got me back to writing the real story again. I love the boxes, because I can go back to them now as I'm looking through it again and know right away that it is an interview that may help me finish developing that section.

About halfway through the month one of the interviews led me to realize I had put a character in the wrong place from the beginning. Ouch! What a painful realization. But the cool thing is, once I accepted the facts, I just kept writing forward with that character trapped where she needed to be and didn't really have to start over at that moment. As I am rewriting from the beginning and editing all the chapters that changed because of this major factor, I'm pretty excited to see things happening that couldn't happen without this character in the right place.

What about next year? I'm doing it again. This time I'll be really prepared and I'll write all 50,000 words. I was just warming up this year.