Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A matter of character

OK, fellow writers. Query time.

How do you create/deal with your characters in fiction?

Do you wing it? Give them detailed character traits, histories, etc?

Not-so-detailed information and discover as you go along writing?

I am curious. I have a pile of stories ideas. I am realizing that in addition to “real life” excuses, some of the ideas just won't gel, and I believe it is a matter of not having a handle on the characters.

I have plots, some neat trappings, but I need to execute those with characters that matter, or really – who cares? And, I know that if you throw three different people (characters) in a room, their traits and habits and reactions and interaction will also create/drive plot.

I realize some of my stronger stories were ones where I made an instant (and easier) connection and intuition with the characters.

So, what do you do when you need to get to know your characters, and it doesn't happen off-the-cuff?


  1. I don't develop detailed histories for characters before I start but I usually do construct a kind of family tree for them so I know what roots they come from.

    When I'm struggling with developing a character I often try to imagine a chance meeting with them by a campfire where we get to talking and I ask them about their opinions and such. It often seems to help.

  2. Charles - thanks, I will try that. I appreciate your primal view of meeting them at a campfire as opposed to the coffee shop. Maybe that's part of your secret. ;)

  3. I do discover things about characters as stories progress, but I have to admit I think I have a pretty good idea on who they are before I even get going.

    I do like to think about how I (or the reader) can relate to a character-what will build resonance with the reader (and of course this is why we have target audiences-not everyone will like the same character)