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Tip Tuesday #74

Lisa Nowak sent me yet another great tip. Please visit her at her blog, The Tao of Webfoot, to see what she's been up to. She's co-founding an e-publishing company called Puddletown Publishing Group and joining the "dark side" to see her novels published. Exciting stuff. But before you head over, here's her tip!

Tricks for Characterization

1. Do an interview. Everyone says this, but what do they really mean? Well, one thing you can do is Google "character interview questions" to find a list. Look at several, pick and choose, and compile your own set of questions. Read through them and answer in first person from the character's perspective. If your character happens to be a smart ass, this can be fun. Be prepared for answers you don't expect. Sometimes the questions won't really apply, or won't get to the heart of that character's issues. In that case, do a history. Open up a document and ask the character to tell you about his life. I find this to be particularly useful for understanding the motivation of "bad guys." Nobody's completely evil, and you'll be able to present the character more realistically if you understand why he feels justified in acting the way he does.

I know what you're thinking. Yeah, but those character questions are boring. Isn't there an easier way? As a matter of fact, there is.

2. Sometimes you might know one basic trait a character has, but you can't think of much beyond that. Scan your memory banks for people you know with this trait. What other characteristics do they have? It's much easier to steal a whole character directly from the flesh than to sit around ticking off attributes from a list. Worried that Aunt Suzie will recognize all her flaws in your book and take offense? Don't be. People tend to see themselves in a positive light and are much more likely to think they're your hero than your villain. Besides, you can always change the details. If she has long blond hair, drives a Lexus, and chews on her nails, give her a curly red 'do, a Ford Focus, and an obnoxious laugh. If that won't work, find a person who isn't as close to you. An old teacher or childhood neighbor.

3. If that still sounds too risky, you can use astrology or a personality test to flesh out your character. Start with that one trait you came up with and read through the characteristics of the Zodiac signs or the different "types" of the Myers-Briggs or enneagram systems to find a match. Now you have a list of other traits that tend to go along with the one you picked. You also have a catalog of the ways this personality manifests itself in the best case or worst case.

Below you'll find some links to get you started.






- Lisa Nowak


S.A. Larsenッ said...

I do this, but I've never Googled for questions. Must try that. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I use a lot of these ideas already, but I never thought of using astrology. That could be interesting. Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

These are great ideas. I do the 25 random things about you---you know that little quiz or whatever on facebook? That really helped me.

Oh, and I love to have my characters host the blog. They even answer comments posted. It's really challenged me to get deeper into the character. It's great fun.

Love these tips. And thanks for the links!!!

The Kranky Crow said...

Ooh! I feel less nutty now; I used an astrology chart to figure out three of my characters' birthdays and traits. Of course, with that darn 13th sign, "Ophiuchus"...

Munk said...

Thanks Casey. As an unpublished in the Willamette Valley, I'm definitely going to be following Lisa's blogs.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips Lisa. I really struggle with the character development. I'm hoping this will help.

Anonymous said...

I just added your feed to my favorites. I really enjoy reading your posts..

The Sisterhood said...

Great ideas, Lisa and Casey. I am just now starting my third novel and this will come in handy. Thank you!


PS. Agent Chelsea Gilmore from Maria Carvainis Agency has granted me an interview and will stop by my blog to answer questions today, if anybody is interested.


Donea Lee said...

Wow - these are some great ideas for character development. I truly believe - the better you know their character, the easier they are to write! Thanks Lisa and Casey ~ :)

Crystal Collier said...

I love the "quiz" idea. Done all the others, and occasionally tried role playing as a character, but doing it through a get-to-know-yourself quiz? Brilliant.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Great tips for characterization! Lots of great links, too! Thanks Casey and Lisa!

Christie Wright Wild said...

Another great page to save on my favorites. Thanks, guys!

AidanF said...

Good tips. A variant on the interview is to create a Chinese Portrait. Faith Hunter provided a discussion of this with regards to PR. Interestingly, this could be useful as a way to get to know your character better and be useful later for PR.

I'd never heard of Chinese Portraits, but Faith's looked like a lot of fun.