Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment...

or Writing Compelling Characters is the the brainchild of Elana Johnson, Jen and Alex. Today a bazillion of us are all writing on the same topic. Elana says, "I'm willing to bet one kidney that there will not be two posts exactly the same, just like there are not two bloggers that are exactly the same." For a complete list of participating bloggers hop on over the Elana's blog. Visit as many of them as you can. Hopefully we will all learn something about Writing Compelling Characters.

So here is my humble offering. (Drum roll please.)

SIX TOOLS you can use to build a believable and compelling character plus TWO RULES. (Notice how tools and rules rhyme.)

After all, your character is the heart of your story. I mean, think about it, would you even HAVE a story if you didn't have a character? I for one can't recall EVER reading ANY story that didn't have at least ONE character. So building a character who's believable and compelling is the single most important thing you can do. You can have a great plot, but if you don't have a great character, your story will fall flat. You can use one or all of these tools, whatever floats your boat.

1.) Write a letter from the POV of your character having her introducing herself to you. Let your character explain who she is. Let her get detailed about her personality, her likes and dislikes.

2.) Make up a general questionnaire form (which you can use for any character for any story) that lists specific things, like name, age, height, weight and body type, eye and hair color. This questionnaire can be as detailed as you need/want it to be. An excellent questionnaire can be found in the book Building Believable Characters, by Marck McCutchen. His book also includes a wonderful character thesaurus.

3.) Interview your character. Ask him any kind of question you can think of. Listen to what he has to say and write down his responses. It often helps to have a list of questions handy. I've found when I do this that questions arise out of the answers given which can take me into whole new territory.

4.) Play the "what if" game by thinking about how your character would respond to "what if" situations. What if Drew got slapped by his mother. Would he slap her back? Burst into tears? Get angry and throw something? Stomp out and slam the door? Go hide in his room and become depressed?

5.) If you're like me and don't have kids, go to a public place, like the mall and watch kids. Notice how they are dressed, how they walk and talk, how they interact with each other and/or their families. Try to eavesdrop on conversations. And remember to take notes. Things you glean from these excursions may show up in your characters.

6.) Research personality types. Two sites to check out are 9types.com and this workshop at WriteronLine. There's lots of info and even personality tests you can "give" your character to help you determine just what kind of personality type your character is.

Finally, here are the rules.

Rule 1.) Know your character(s) as well as you (think) you know yourself.

Rule 2.) Have fun.

54 comments:

  1. What an excellent post!!! Yep, I don't think there is going to be even ONE the same.
    Quote: "I for one can't recall EVER reading ANY story that didn't have at least ONE character." hahahahaha. Great point!!!! heheheh

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  2. I like rule 2 best. We sometimes forget that one ;) Great take on the blogging experiment! :)

    Lyn
    W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

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  3. I like that you gave different tools to use to write a compelling character. Definitely a different take than the posts I've read so far. I really like the one about just going out and watching kids. I'm actually lucky. I teach middle school and high school. I have research subjects come to me every day. Of course, they're Korean ... so some of the stuff is cultural and I can't write down everything as it's a language I don't fully understand. But still.

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  4. I love character sheets, they are the best way for me to flesh out a character and all his or her quirks. And having fun whilst writing is most important! I agree. ;)

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  5. Great points! Haven't heard of 9types before, will definitely be checking that out.

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  6. I love the list of tools to create a compelling character. I agree with all of the above. Well said!

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  7. This is one of my fav posts today! Love the writing a letter in characters pov...and interivews. LOVE IT!

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  8. One must know one's characters before writing about them. Good tips, especially about researching personality types!

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  9. Great post!

    It's so useful! I'll definitely start interviewing my characters more...

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  10. The letter idea is genius!! Great post Bish and so far Elana hasn't lost her kidney!

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  11. Excellent post, Bish. And you're right. I can't think of any story that didn't have at least one character, either. :) I like number three. That is simply awesome, my friend. Great post. I didn't do the great blogging experiment, but I sure am having a blast reading the posts. :)

    Happy Punctuation Day. :)

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  12. great tips! I especially love rule #2. It's so easy to get caught up in the work aspect...gotta remember why we love to write and have fun with it :)

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  13. Awesome tools, thanks Bish. Personally I usually go more organic, just letting the plot and scenarios dictate the characters motivation, but I'd like to think I would know all the answers to the interview questions if it came up.

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  14. I've heard of some of those tips, but #1 is new to me. I think I'm going to try that with my current MC. I like it! :D

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  15. Solid Advice...
    great post!
    :)
    Jeremy
    [iZombie]

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  16. I like the idea of writing a letter to yourself from the character's POV. Gives you a chance to really get into their head.

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  17. Thanks for the links...I'm in the experiment too and now I'm following you.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

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  18. This is a fun experiment! Yeah, so none of our posts have been the same, though we all have similar themes: know your characters, make them flawed, etc....
    but I love your rule #2! HAVE FUN!! :)

    Love it. :)

    I swore I was already following you...but anyway, I am now.

    Happy Weekend!
    Love,
    Lola

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  19. Good post. I need to work on a profile question page.

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  20. I like the "what if" game. I'll have to try that one. Thanks!

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  21. Thanks for all the great character-building exercise ideas and, of course, the reminder to have fun!

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  22. Holy brown cows! I'm so printing this out. I don't normally go into this much detail when I sit down to write, but I'm learning to be more methodical and organized during the drafting stage. And this is so going to help!

    I especially like rule #2.

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  23. Thanks for the tips and the resources! And I think #5 can apply even to those of us who have kids---they all have such wildly different personalities so it's a good idea to observe a bunch. I put in my "child observation" time by being a lunch lady for five years! Hehe.

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  24. Your tools and rules were great. I use a spreadsheet with a bunch of questions on it as my interview sheet for each character - no matter how minor. It really helps when writing because I already know how a character would react in lots of different situations.

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  25. I LOVE the "what if" game! Rule #2 is golden. I think writers lose track of that every once in a while.

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  26. Rule #2 really sets the tone! Have fun!! Great post!

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  27. I think interview characters are a great idea. And I love psych so researching personality types sounds like a ton of fun. Great post!

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  28. Oooo, great ideas, Bish. Bookmarking! :-)

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  29. Great ideas, Bish...I love the idea of doing personality tests for your characters. :)

    Have a lovely weekend!

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  30. This. Post. ROCKS.

    I am totally going to print this out. And follow your blog.

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  31. I think the "what if" questions are a great idea. That'll probably tell you the most.

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  32. Great post, Bish! Thanks for the links and the book recommendation, too!

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  33. I love this! It's almost like asking your characters to submit a resume and them interviewing them for the job.

    Great post!
    Jen

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  34. Very nice! And good point about knowing our characters as well as we know ourselves. :)

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  35. Hello I enjoyed your post and found it interesting, as you said no two post are the same well mine is completely different as I don't write stories I write poetry about the expereiences in my life, I may write the odd poem about something fictional but very rarely.

    It's been a pleasure to read your blog.

    Yvonne.

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  36. I love the list! That's excellent advice. I've never made a questionnaire for my characters, but that is a great idea!

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  37. Thanks for the ideas and resources! I love rule 2. That is what it is all about right, enjoying our writing.

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  38. Have fun may be the most important rule of all. If we lose the joy of writing, it shows. Thanks for a comprehensive list!

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  39. Love, love, love the letter writing idea. Fantastic!

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  40. These are very good suggestions. I especially like "Have fun". If I'm not having fun then I'm probably doing some work I don't like.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  41. Good ideas for getting to know your characters.

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  42. You have a thorough way of getting to know your characters.
    I made a note of your 9types tip.
    Thanks
    Elaine

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  43. Great post with fabulous ideas and links! I'm sharing this link with my critique group!

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  44. Hey, this is great. I do most of the others, but I love #6. Thanks.

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  45. Thanks, Bish! I do lists, but I really like the "What if...". Will add that to my character bios!

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  46. I like the what if scenarios, that could open up some doors that you didn't know existed. Thanks!

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  47. Wow... I've never thought of doing what you suggest in #6. I'm going to be doing this after I read all the entries. Great idea!

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  48. A perfect little nugget of wisdom: "know your characters as well as you think you know yourself"

    Loved your tools and rules!

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  49. Thank you so much for the links, you're so sweet! There's also another excellent questionnaire by
    Harley
    . I hope you like it as much as I do! :)

    Come and visit me!

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  50. Great advice. Someone else talked about treating your characters like real people too. Conferencing with them--where do they want the story to go?

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  51. I do the questionnaire, interview, and "what if" games already, but I LOVE the idea of having your character write a letter to you! I am definitely going to try that next time. And researching personality types is something I never thought of, though I love studying psych in my non-fiction life. Thanks for the great ideas!

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  52. Love the tools you've included. Planning on trying some of those out.

    And hey, I totally know myself (mostly, kinda, sorta... okay, well, maybe I just think I know myself). :)

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  53. Love that you said to observe kids of today. It's easy to fall into thinking that the rules of our growing up still apply today.

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Your Random Thoughts are most welcome!