Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Building Character(s)

Today's the last day to enter my giveaway of Meander Scar and Carman's giveaway of A Stray Drop of Blood. Still have time on The Character Therapist's of Stray Drop, though!


So I've been thinking about characters lately. Probably because all of the new reviews have mentioned mine. I confess I was a little nervous when I realized that Jeannie at The Character Therapist was going to dissect them. "Yikes!" I said. "What if she tells me I got them ALL WRONG?" LOL.

You see, there are Methods for creating characters. Charts. Seminars. Whole books written about it. You can interview your characters. You can determine their type. You're supposed to know their goals, their desires, their fears. We're told to map out the black moment in the story, to make them do what they would never do, to figure out what the worst thing is for them and then make it happen.

Um . . . I never do that. When I sit down with all the lovely, organized charts and the pretty, detailed questionnaires, I inevitably come up with something profound like, "Derrrrrrrrrrrr. I dunno." If you ask me what my heroine's black moment is going to be, I'd probably say something like, "Well, you know. When she, um . . . gets all upset and stuff."

In some ways, I just can't plot this stuff out ahead of time. My characters generally just are to me. I don't want to analyze them, I just want them to give them their voice. My hubby has always said characters are my strong point, but, you know, he's biased. According to the Experts, my way of doing things is totally Not It.

Or maybe it's just Not Teachable. (My way, that is.) When you come up with an ordered, well-behaved way of developing characters, it's something you can share. The methods that aren't so methodical don't lend themselves to classes or seminars. Which eventually brings me to the conclusion that I'm doing okay. Even though I don't tend to research stages of grief or read articles on how people cope with tragedy, I do what I do--put myself in their shoes.

This week my friend turned me onto journaling through your characters, and I'm having fun with that because it's what I do anyway--just being them. What I really love about this is that it helps me not only know my characters better, but myself as well. Through their logic I can reason through topics I'd never consider. I've had characters change my mind on some important matters.

Does my non-method and the intimacy inherent in it make for better characters? For me, yes. For other writers, undoubtedly not. But contemplating has helped me to see yet again that there is no right way, no wrong way to craft a good story. There is just the way that works for you. And I'm so, so grateful to the readers who have verified that it works just fine. Thank you!!


  1. "My characters generally just are to me."

    Not just that Roseanna. Your characters are you. And me. And each of us who has ever struggled. Your characters are well defined because they are real, the represent us all. Their experiences are not mere literary contrivances. They are the experiences of us all, and that is why we connect with them so well.

  2. Which is obviously what we all go for, Tiffany. I really appreciate everyone saying I do it well, even if how I get there has no rhyme or reason, LOL.

    I just finished a book where the author's note said they read a lot of first-hand accounts from women who had gone through similar things to her heroine, and once again I thought, "See, I never did that. I just wing it." But I guess if you wing it whole-heartedly, you can pull it off. =)

  3. I'm still looooving my character journals. I think I'm on my last one, and then I'll get back to the actual story. Yay!