Friday, February 24, 2012

Talk About Building Characters


One of my favorite recurring themes/jokes from Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes was when Dad told Calvin that something built character. Calvin always grumbled that he had enough character, thank you very much, and that Dad was just being cheap.

This week at the Confabulator Cafe, we've been talking about building characters and how each of us does it. My entry is up now and I encourage you to head over there and see what I said about it. Here's a sample:

I tell you that story to tell you this: there’s no secret to developing characters. Anyone can do it. Some writers run their people through a kind of boot camp by interviewing them and knowing all sorts of details that may or may not be revealed in the course of a story. Others take a more organic approach and allow plot to reveal character through action. In the business we call this ‘pantsing’ for ‘flying by the seat of my pants’.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I need to know more than just a little bit about my characters in order to write about them and often their actions determine the path of the plot. This happens when I ask the question: “What would (character name) do in this situation?” If the answer isn’t dramatic enough, I change the situation to suit the character. The one thing I need to know is whether the character will zig or zag in a given situation.

 I really think that's true: there is no secret to developing characters. You either know how to do it or you don't and you figure it out. And by figuring it out I mean that you have to ask questions. A writer who doesn't ask questions is lazy and is not going to be successful. As I've said a dozen times before, writing is Work and one must do the work in order to get the pay day. Go on over and read the full post. Then check out what the others are saying. The best thing about group blogs is that there's always something to learn from at least one person and I learn something every week.

See you on Monday. (Oh and by the way, you can now find a summary of all the stuff I've ever put out for public consumption on the new Titles page up at the top of the blog.)