by Alison Clifford
One of my characters has been giving me a bit of grief this past week.
In the past, most of my characters have either come to me pretty much fully formed, or have willingly revealed themselves to me early on in the story. Not this one. I’m not talking about their physical characteristics. Those I find easy. I always know their height, body shape, hair and eye colour. It’s the inside that can be difficult - their personality.
I thought I had this character sussed out, but no. I didn’t even have her name right (yes, it’s a woman). That may sound a bit strange, but I’ve come to realise my main characters have their own names, and it’s generally up to me to find out what they are. This lady? Not so easy. It took me a while, but I have it worked out now. I’m enjoying the process of discovering how this character ticks, but there has been one major drawback.
Not knowing much about this character stalled the story. It’s hard to write her part of the story if I don’t know how she ticks. And when they’re a main character…
There are loads of character questions, lists, etc., floating around the internet for authors to use. Early on in my writing I found a book called 45 Master Characters, and lists two factors an author needs to determine about their characters. The factors are: what does the character fear, and what does the character care about. These two things supply the characters motives and their reason for acting in certain ways. A character who fears the dark will do anything to avoid it. Similarly, a character who cares about their career will strive to overcome any obstacle in achieving their goals. It is then the author’s role to turn these against the characters to bring out their true character and create drama.
I find that once I know the fears and cares, and send the characters into situations that can try these, the characters emerge and show themselves.
So what does this character fear and care about? Sorry, I’m not going to give that away. Thankfully, now I know more about her, she has become easier to write.
I’ve also discovered she can be quite argumentative…
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