3/12/18

How to Understand Your Characters


            You step into the small cafĂ©, looking around until you see them, waving you over.

            Sliding into your chair, you study them, some details are bright and direct, others are still a little blurry.

            “Nice to meet you,” you smile, shaking their hand, “I’m the author writing your story.”

            They smile back, “Charmed. I’m your character.”

            You and your character are chatting easily until you hit that awkward jolt in the conversation.  Why?

            “But why?” you ask, interrupting your character as they tell you a story. “Why did you do that? Why did you think that?”

            They fall silent, looking down at their coffee. “I… don’t know.” They finally whisper.

            And neither do you, which is the problem.

 


            Okay, maybe you didn’t reach this block while having a conversation with your character over espressos, but maybe you reached this while typing on your laptop or writing in your notebook.

           One second your character is doing something heartbreaking or astoundingly vile, and then the next you stop and realize you don’t really know a reason for them to act or think that way.



 
 
 

    There are several things to analyze when trying to figure out your character’s motive or way of thinking.



 

1. What do they fear?

           Fear is a powerful thing. From simple things like dogs, to bigger things like failure and being alone, fear influences many of our actions.

The fear of rejection can make people become followers or bullies, simply because they don’t want their peers to reject them.

 What is your character’s greatest fear, and how does it affect their everyday lives?


 2. How did they grow up?

 
        Children are highly vulnerable, such things as neglect and abuse (verbal and non-verbal), can affect their behaviors for the rest of their lives if not addressed and taken care of.
          A study conducted by researchers at UCLA (read more about it here) came back with results that show that abuse and neglect greatly affects the way a person thinks, even stating, “Childhood abuse increases adult risk for morbidity and mortality."




 3. What were / are their surroundings like?

       From poverty to mansions, your characters surroundings throughout their lives changed the way they see things.

What were their surroundings like (school, home, church etc.)?  
       How did said surroundings make them feel? Threatened? Loved? Rejected?




 
    

4. Who do they love? And what lengths would they go to keep or protect them?

      Love and misguided adoration can make people do terrible things (especially characters).  
 
 
     An example of this in fiction is Anakin and Padme. Anakin adored Padme, causing him to be able to be manipulated to do horrible things when it came to the promise of saving her life. 

  5. What do they believe in?
  

  Is your character religious? If so, what religion and how does it affect their everyday life and way of thinking?

If they aren't, why not? How does this affect their everyday life and way of thinking?

What kind of person are they when it comes to believing in something? Do they blindly follow, or are they more cautious?







      
 I hope this helped!


 Do you have trouble getting to know your characters?
How do you evaluate them?

Happy Writing,


47 comments:

  1. THE AESTHETICS IN THIS POST ARE AMAZING!!! I LOVE THE HEADER!!

    And you make some excellent tips for characters. AMAZING POST!

    ~Ivie| Ivie Writes

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! (all thanks to Pixabay). XD

      Thank you SO much, Ivie!!! :D

      Delete
  2. My characters tend to bring their motivation with them when they come into being in my mind (I'm very character-driven as writer types go, so the characters usually spring into my head and bring some semblance of a plot with them.) So usually it's taking their motivations, their personalities, their hearts, and weaving it into a plot. Which tends to be harder. XD

    Excellent post! These are definitely very, very helpful tips. :D

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    1. That's great! Mine do that sometimes as well, other times they're stubborn. XD

      Thank you, Faith!

      Delete
  3. I've had that character block happen a lot. These questions should help a lot with that. Thank you Gray!

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It can be so hard to get over!

      You're welcome, thanks for reading!! <3

      Delete
  4. These are amazing questions to consider!! I sometimes have difficulty with figuring out specific reasons for each of my individual characters. I don't want them all to have the same reasons or have a common thread, which helps in creating diversity. I often ask myself some of these questions when I encounter those problems. Great post! :D

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    1. Thanks! ^_^

      Yes, same here. It's funny how our minds can be so hard to understand.

      Delete
  5. THANK YOU!!! I keep finding posts about characters, which has been extremely helpful lately. All those questions should help me tremendously. <3

    There are so many questions to ask ourselves and so many ways we can make our stories so much deeper. I mean, how can we make our readers understand why we write what we do if we don't quite understand it all ourselves? Sometimes, I assume that my readers will know what I'm getting at, but I forget that only I know the story that I'm writing. The readers come stumbling in, clueless. The challenge of writing the story to it's fullest and as clear as possible is up to me. The character's life needs to mean something. A good author makes every detail and description in the story matter.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thank YOU for reading!

      That's great that you are finding helpful posts, do you follow Melissa Gavitis at Quill Pen Writer? Her posts are extremely helpful!

      Yes, that's so true. It's amazing how much details matter.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the recommendation! I've heard of Melissa Gravitis from Rebellious Writing, but have never visited her blog. I need to check her out!

      Sometimes they make or break a book. Terri Blackstock seems to be excellent with details!

      Delete
    3. Her blog is amazing, and has helped me a great deal. ^_^

      Terri is so good at storytelling! She blows me away every time. :D

      Delete
    4. I love her blog!! Her question\answer page is especially helpful.

      She's amazing! I watched an interview of her and she mentioned that she got SO MANY rejections before she got published. I recently read some of her books and wondered how that could even happen! She said that she writes like.. .6 or 7 drafts of the book before she sends it in.

      Delete
    5. IKR?!?

      She is! Her whole story on how she became a Christian author is so inspiring. And that's a lot of drafts!! No wonder her works are so good.

      Delete
    6. It IS inspiring, isn't it? I thought it was cool how she went away from writing the "romance norm" when she first starting writing. She said that she didn't want to be that way. It just makes me so happy when I hear about that!
      I know! It kind of scares me. lol

      Delete
    7. Yes, I heard her testimony on the radio, and it was so cool and encouraging!

      SAME. XD

      Delete
  6. good post. I like the way it was written.

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  7. I'm sure this'll be super helpful! Thanks for sharing!!!

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  8. As always, I'm impressed with your grasp of what it takes to write a novel. Great post!

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  9. Just wondering, are you doing Camp NaNo?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I'm not sure! I am going to try too. The reason I asked was because I wondered what cabin you were in? Are you part of a private one? I want to join a private one with some people I know so I was just asking a few bloggers.

      Delete
    2. Is camp NanoWrimo an annual event, or is it a once in a while kind of thing?

      Delete
    3. Hm, I'm not sure how to describe it. Nanowrimo the whole "write 50K in one month" takes place during November, but Camp NaNoWriMos happen twice a year, I think..

      Delete
    4. Thanks for the information! I want to do it sometime, but finding the time to commit to it is tricky.

      Delete
  10. Gray Gray this post is gold. Thank you! I love my charies so much and it is a lot of times my favorite to write their story because THEY tell me what they did and why the did it. It's amazing. :D.
    It's just like... I don't normally have to come up with why something is happening. It's either already in my brain to write out in the future, or I find out as I write. It's really really fun. :D

    Gracie, Gray is in my cabin for Camp Nano. :D

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    1. Ah, okay! Is your cabin full? And did you see my comment on Goodreads about not writing Christian fiction? 'Cause I'd still love to write with you guys if you'd have me????

      Delete
    2. @ Libby May, Thank you! That's so awesome that you know right off the bat. :D

      Delete
  11. I love love love questionnaires, but for some reason, they never help me (much) in the long run?? I guess I tend to forget what I put, and hate going back and finding the info. So I tend to just write a bunch with the characters and get into their head and just get to the point where I feel them. I do character journaling, sometimes, and just get in their heads. I find that better then answering questions, but essentially it gets the same job done. :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ooh, I do that too sometimes! Easier said than done for some writers.

      I'm glad you found a process that works for you!

      Delete
  12. Your posts are always so helpful and they always get me in the mood to write!

    www.letmecrossover.blogspot.com

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  13. I find I use #1, #4, and #5 the most when analyzing a character.
    It would be nice if I could talk with them face to face over coffee, though.


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    1. It would be SO nice, wouldn't it?!?

      Delete
  14. I like this because I've been writing out my character profiles for my characters because last year I've read a lot of posts so I gathered up information on questions to ask my characters.

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    1. Thank you!

      There are SO many character posts out there, it's great. :D

      Delete
  15. My story develops out of my characters, so it's very important for me to know my characters' emotions and deep thoughts and motivations! So I love getting questions like this - e.g. #4, "Who do they love? and what to lengths would they go to keep and protect them?" - and writing a whole page, first-person, starting from that point. (That's a really good question, by the way - and it feels quite relevant to Three Sisters - so I'm thinking I might do that one for a few characters!)

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    1. Yes, same. ^_^

      I'm glad this was a help!

      Delete
  16. Those are great questions.. even outside of fiction. I always find it interesting to understand the people around me as well as fictional characters. :) And that introduction story was so good! You have a good imagination! xx

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    1. Thank you!
      I actually use common real life psychology to come up with some of my questions for characters. ^_^

      Delete
  17. Oh yes. That happens so often. Though, usually it is like this:
    Mom: Why did your character do that?
    Me: Because I can make them do anything I want *evil laugh*
    Mom:.... You know that doesn't fit into their character, right?
    Me: *rethinks whole novel*
    So, this was very helpful! Thank you so much, Gray!

    ReplyDelete

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