Thursday, April 19, 2012

Questions For Characters

(This is my hundredth post! Hooray!)

I borrowed a book from this awesome person in my writing group on Tuesday. What Would Your Character Do? is the title, and it's supposed to help with character development (and making their actions believable). It asks situational questions, like "What is the first thing your character does upon receiving an invitation to an extended family picnic?"

It got me thinking. I've made my own questionnaires for characters before, and filled out some that were made by others--but I started wondering if I actually know how my own friends would react... it really reinforces for me the idea that we have to know our characters better than can possibly know a real person. After all, we're in their heads. 

One of my major problems with the last draft of Tsirash came in getting those characters across; to those who had never heard me really talk about my book or the people living in my head, they came across as whiny, overemotional, or irrational. Not every person said the same thing about every character, though, and it's been tough for me to pick through and decide what I really need to focus on that could fix this problem. (Whoa, there's though, tough, through in the same sentence!) I feel like I know them so well--the issue isn't so much knowing what they would do as how that makes them appear.

Which brings me back to the book. These questions for characters give basic multiple choice answers to you--but then explain what sort of person would generally choose/feel that way. For instance, if I chose "D) Feel unaccountably depressed"... I also see that it says, "Feeling unaccountably depressed alerts us to the possibility that your character sees herself as an outsider even in her own family."

Not that this book is perfect--especially for what I'm writing, since the scenarios are about modern-day dealings in our own world. But I do think there's a lot to be said about tiny glimpses making big differences. And if you want to know how to do that, you'd best start asking questions.

-Tsira

13 comments:

  1. I'm excited to start looking through that book. I don't wanna fall into the trap of just doing writing-related stuff rather than actual writing, though... I'm totally guilty of that.

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    1. ...yes, you are. ;) When do I get to read a finished story? PLEASE. I WANT IT NOW.

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  2. That book does sound really interesting...I've never really done anything like that with my characters before.

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    1. Ah, I should have let you guys look at it during writing group--oh well, I can show you next week. :)

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  3. That sounds like a great book. I'll have to check it out. I know asking questions on my blog helped me connect better with other bloggers. I'm sure it will work the same with my characters.

    ScribblesFromJenn
    Happy A to Z-ing!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I've filled out so many personality profiles and character sheets for my characters that I'm kinda worn out. But this was a new way to look at it, so I was excited to flip through it.

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  4. Great book! I'll have to have a look at it!

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  5. It a great idea, and one that use occasionally. I do have to make up my own situations, but it really helps me get inside the characters' heads.

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    1. Yeah, I kinda have to do that, as well. I adapted the situations to exist in my book. There's no airport, but I can say they're going across the ocean in a ship... that sort of thing.

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  6. I also like to do a character worksheet that includes a physical, economic, emotional, family history, etc. description of my characters. It really helps me decide and keep track of just who my characters are and why they do what they do.
    Great post! Thanks.

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    1. Yeah, I like doing those. :) I also like to have a character card, just an index card with basic information that I might not remember, like which hand they use to write, how big a scar is, or what their mannerisms are. I find that sort of stuff really helpful.

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  7. Congrats on your 100th post!

    I usually try to write from each character's pov before I begin a book to get them down, but I've never done a questionnaire. Good idea!

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