Hi Everyone! Natalie here today. Today I have author Stephanie Keyes here to share her tips on developing your characters. Stephanie is the author of THE FALLEN STARS, a YA fantasy and book 2 in The Star Child series, that released on April 12, 2013. Details on the giveaway are at the end of the post.
So here's Stephanie!
After you've identified which characters will take on starring roles in your work, one of the most challenging aspects of writing comes in being true to him/her. Understanding how that person would react and respond in any given situation and infusing that knowledge into your work is key. It helps set the context for the story to come, but also defines that all-important world. I'm not talking about Fantasy worlds per se, but the world in which your characters and their central conflict exist.
How do you get into your character's heads? Here are a few common ways:
• Character Interviews: There are dozens of character interview questions which can help you get on your way towards understanding your character better. Just Google "Character Interview Questions" and dozens pop up.
• Biographies: Write out your character's history. Even a two-page summary of her background will go far, as you formulate your ideas.
• Re-write Existing Content Through New Eyes: In this scenario, you would take a fleshed out section of work and rewrite it as though it were coming from the new character’s perspective. How would she react differently?
Every writer attempts to get inside their characters' heads by applying their own unique approach. There isn't a ‘‘one size fits all’’ fix. For me, although each of the above exercises is valuable, they're generally solitary approaches. In my mind, the term ‘‘‘solitary’’’ equals "not talking". As anyone who knows me will attest, I can't do anything without talking - that includes writing.
For my latest book, I decided to add a third point of view, Gabe. I pictured him as having a surfer-style voice, blond, blue-eyed good looks, with a teddy-bear personality. This character is also loyal and intelligent, though the latter doesn't always come across because of his conversation style and word choices. I envisioned the character in his early twenties, a Yale graduate and Harvard Law student from an affluent family. Gabe was worlds away from a Pittsburgh mom of two who'd been married for eleven years, so how would I get into his head?
Since I like to talk, why not play to my strengths? That night at dinner, I started participating in the conversation as Gabe. It went something like this.
Husband: "How was your day?"
Me: Shoulder roll. Looked at my plate. "It was okay."
Husband: "Just okay? You seem like you're in a bad mood tonight."
Husband: "Are you mad at me? What's going on with you?"
Me: "Just chillax, okay? Don't be a hater."
You can imagine how this went down with my husband. However, after a few more exchanges, he asked, ‘‘Channeling Gabe, huh?’’ He’s pretty slick, that husband of mine.
Whenever a problem would come up during my day, I would try and approach it from the character's perspective. How would he respond in any given situation? I recognized beforehand that I would, in most cases, probably not achieve the same outcome. However, I could try. For example, when preparing my tax documentation, I actually read the instructions for each form, including any disclaimers, the way a law students might've. Continuing my role-play efforts, I called the accountant and said, "Dude, this is like...messed up" before putting everything in a neat pile and covering it over. I will admit that I did go back and retrieve it later.
On the first Saturday morning after I'd begun this project, I slept until noon and ignored my husband's pleas to come and help with the children. I didn't make any plans, but instead spent the weekend suggesting random, previously unplanned activities. This stressed my husband to no end, but again, this was Gabe's approach. Not mine.’’
Of course, these situations are funny, but they ended up being highly valuable. After four days of living in Gabe’s shoes, I knew everything about him, from his deepest, darkest secret, to the ringtone he had on his phone. Maybe I walked a mile in his shoes, or maybe only a few feet. However, by the time the exercise ended, my husband and kids got involved.
"Gabe would never say that. He'd say 'Dude, you're a hot mess', my husband informed me one day at lunch. Now imagine if every reader could be so invested in your characters. Wouldn't that be fabulous?
These are just a few examples of the steps I took to try and get inside the head of my character. So if what you've been doing isn't working for you, consider changing it up. Try a role-play and spend some time in his or her shoes. How would they respond? There's no right or wrong - just what works for you. Either way as Gabe would say, ‘‘Just chillax. Don't be afraid to try something new, dude.’’
The Fallen Stars
by Stephanie Keyes
Paperback, 530 pages| Expected publication: April 12th 2013 by Inkspell Publishing
When all is lost, he will have to make the ultimate decision.
Kellen St. James was just your average seventeen-year-old prodigy, until he eighty-sixed the Lord of Faerie and proposed to the Celtic Goddess, Calienta. But then everything in Kellen’s life gets turned upside-down when he and Cali end up on the run from a seriously irritated group of faeries. The worst part? They have zero idea why they’re being hunted.
Suddenly, Kellen is stuck in the middle of another prophecy that foresees him turning away from Calienta and embracing the dark. He’ll be forced to take sides in a struggle to claim his birthright, while discovering secrets about his father’s past. Meanwhile, his passion for Cali grows stronger, even as the prophecy threatens to tear them apart.
In the end, will Kellen and Cali survive the fates? When the ultimate power is within reach, which side will he choose?
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.
Hope to see you tomorrow for my interview with agent Jill Corcoran about her new A Path to Publishing workshops and of course I asked her what submissions she’s looking for right now. There’s a giveaway too!