Friday, September 24, 2010

What a Character!

I'm still gallivanting around the wilds of Nova Scotia, but I wanted to take part in Elana Johnson's Great Blogging Experiment on Compelling Characters. It'll take me awhile to get around to everyone but I will, I promise!

So. How to create compelling characters? First of all, I can only hope, pray and bribe you with wine to make you think the characters I create are compelling. I've tried loads of different methods: interviewing them, writing their backstories, tracking down photos... but only one thing works for me. I have to write the damn story.

It's only when I start writing that they reveal themselves to me -- some characters even pop up from nowhere! Once I'm finished the first draft, then I can ask myself what these characters want, why they can't get it, and why they're acting the way they do. Armed with that information, I go back and nudge the story so it falls around them.

Happy blog hopping, everyone!

PS - If you're new here, welcome! Feel free to check out my September contest and my Blogsplash! Thanks for stopping by.

67 comments:

  1. I'm not a writer but I am an avid reader. For me a good compelling character is one that is three dimensional...they have to be flawed to be believable...I can't stand it when a character is too pure to be wholesome!

    Glad your having a fab time

    C x

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  2. LOL that's pretty much how it works for me too. I have to write the first draft to get to know them, them I embellish them! :o) Have fun on holiday!!!

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  3. that's how it works with me too, Talli. And I don't always get it right. But going back and reading the first draft they start shouting loudly until I fix it!
    Glad you're having a good time, loving the pictures!

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  4. Hi Talli .. great to see that you're having one lovely holiday ..

    characters I have yet to learn! one day .. but I'm looking forward to reading how you all do it ... and work them through with their quirky traits ..

    Happy days to you too .. you're obviously absorbing every possible minute ... enjoy - Hilary

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  5. Just caught up with your photos, looks like you're having an amazing time. I too find that I spend the first draft learning about my characters, and it's only from the second draft onwards that I can make the story work for them (and, hopefully, for the reader too!).

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  6. Hi,

    Love all the pics that keep popping up and nice to see you're thoroughly enjoying yourself back on old hunting grounds, though home is always where the heart is!

    Good post btw re compelling characters.

    But, your blogsplash seems to malfunctioning. I've tried to join twice and it's not showing up. Just wondering how many more people have tried to signup.

    best
    F

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  7. Spot on, Talli!!! With me it's the same. Character sheets really don't help me at all, they have to act and react with what happens with the plot. Thats how they shape for me.

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  8. Ah interviewing would be great, if I could that, I think it would be invaluable. Currently I do most my researching on the net for background on my story.

    Have a lovely weekend! ;)

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  9. Me too Talli. I have to write them... they partly tell me their story but where they don't...they can be fleshed out further in later drafts.

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  10. I will be posting about the blogsplash next week. I promise.
    Nice take on the topic.
    My characters just come to me and don't seem to shut up. So I must write them.
    I hope you are having a wonderful time.

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  11. I agree, I feel like sometimes with the first draft, I'm getting to know my characters as if I'm reading a book for the first time. Weird but true. Great post!

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  12. You're so good to be blogging whilst on your holiday! True dedication.

    I'd say I'm like you - my characters don't become flesh and blood until I write the story. If I start thinking about them beforehand, my interest dies.

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  13. For all the preplotting so much more is often revealed through the actual writing. I totally agree!

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  14. I think I'm a bit like you. I've got a general idea where I want the story to go, but it isn't until I jump into it that I get a sense of who my characters REALLY are. It's like they're just a shell until I start stuffing them with interesting tidbits.

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  15. Keep having fun out there and see you around. x

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  16. Actually, I TOTALLY get that...most of the time the richness of the character I find through writing!

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  17. Short, sweet and spot on!! You do get to know your characters as they travel through scenes and face those challenges you write for them. I love it! Great job.

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  18. Great point Talli! Sometimes it takes the plot to reveal the motivation. You can plan the character all out ahead of time, but it's only in situations that they will be revealed.

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  19. So glad to hear you are terrorising - I meant gallivanting through - Nova Scotia with your blondeness and tallness! And utter fabulousness!

    Yes, for characters to live the story must be written! I so can't wait to read your book - hurry up already!! :-)

    Take care
    x

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  20. I kind of write like you do Talli. A character so of arrives at my door and it's not until I've finished the story that I feel I've gotten to know him/her. Then I go back and flesh things out.

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  21. Oh, I like your style! This is exactly what i am doing for my first book.... I kinda wrote a loose description of my MC but I am AMAZED and EXCITED how he is coming to life before my eyes as I write the story. I can't wait to find out all about him.

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  22. Maybe this is my problem... I'm trying to work out the characters in my notes and my head before I start writing the actual story. Maybe that's just what I need to do now...

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  23. I get that too, Talli - from out of nowhere, and certainly not on my plan-sheet (yeah, right) a character just appears, with a name and a voice and an attitude and everything and I wonder how come I never thought of him/her/it before? - some of the best things just can't be pre-thought! Nova Scotia, eh? Exotic!

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  24. I do all the foremetioned. But one of my favorite techniques (I just tried this out after WriteOnCon) is making a collage for each of the major characters. I did it so I could do something with my kids. They loved the idea and started making their own. It's hard to explain, but the pictures (and words) made my character feel real to me.

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  25. lol perfect :) I do the same thing...I go back and relayer a bit, but it's only when I actually write the story that the character comes alive to me

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  26. Glad you were able to participate! Hope you're enjoying yourself.

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  27. Excellent job! You always provide me with plenty of wine to make anything believable by the time I'm done!

    I've read a few of your pieces, you my friend, have very compelling characters! Miss you :) Hope you're enjoying your time off!

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  28. Such a great point Talli! Just write the story, that's how you figure them out. Well said!

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  29. I try to get bare bones info from my characters before I begin. But more times than not, they tell me lies. Like you, I learn much more by writing them. So glad to know I'm not the only one!

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  30. I think sometimes just sitting down and actually writing is the only way. I generally plan everything out, but I still get suprised. With my last book, I was planning to keep the cast of characters fairly minimal. Then when I was writing chapter two I found myself mentioning a character I hadn't planned for or even though of before. Then in chapter three she was one of the main character's best friends.

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  31. That is probably the best advice ever. You have to write the story.

    Glad you're having such an amazing time! :-)

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  32. Talli-you definitely have something there. I usually think up the set-up first, but the way I get to know my characters is to write a couple scenes and see how they act. THEN I can plausibly plot the rest of the story with rounded characters.

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  33. I love you so hard right now. This is it EXACTLY. I rarely know everything about my characters, and I don't fill out any personality sheets. I just write the first draft. And it's horrible, and I have to rewrite the whole thing, but at least I know my characters at the end.

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  34. I tend to create and kill. If my characters do not make the grade, I have them murdered. Well not Chewy or Wallis, they are different! LOL

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  35. That is what it all comes down to in the end....just write the story.

    Good process!!

    Glad to hear you are enjoying your visit home.

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  36. You're so right! I didn't know some of my characters' motivations until I was almost finished with the first draft.

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  37. True. Just write the story already. The become more interesting when you get to know them.

    CD

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  38. Good point, Talli. Until we actually have a story, the rest of it is moot. :-)

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  39. Ah yes, there's only so much prepping you can do before you actually have to, you know, (gulp):

    Write it.

    That's when your characters can really show their feathers.

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  40. Haha! "Write the damn story". I love it! Some of the best advice I've read all day.

    And I love the little monster poster.

    Cheers,
    Jen

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  41. Funny, Talli! Way to keep it real...

    Hope you're enjoying yourself, still...

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  42. It sounds as if you're a pantser (I'm one myself). The more you write about your characters, the more you learn about them. Very fun!

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  43. Your attitude is the same as mine. The characters reveal themselves, then we go out and play with them.

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  44. Wow. Thanks for posting, I'm thinking.
    You learn about your characters, initially, as the reader would.
    That is the opposite way to where mine come from. They turn up whole but I put them under the microscope before I put them onto paper.

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  45. I'll admit I've never interviewed a character before I start to write. I think discovery is just part of the fun of writing. Great post!

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  46. Great perspective Talli! I'm participating in the Great Blogging Experiment as well and my blog post is about what we can learn about character development from lime marmalade. Check it out if you have a chance.

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  47. Personally, I think that this method works better than a sheet or interview.... but that's just me.

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  48. Talli - LOL WRiting the story is very important. Hope you're having fun and staying safe. =D

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  49. Same here, Talli. My story comes together when I start writing. My characters take on shape and depth, and I exhale!

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  51. I do not have any special formula for developing characters. I simply develop them as I go along. This works for me. I don't keep track of what makes them tick on an Excel spreadsheet or a Word doc. I don't track their quirkiness and idiosynchrocies. But at the end of the day, they are all unique, complimenting when necessary and contrasting and causing conflict the next chapter.

    Stephen Tremp

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  52. Yes I'm new, wonderful post and I hope you're enjoying Nova scotia.
    I write poetry so find it differnt to writing novels but one has to know who and what you're writing about,
    I found your post most pleasurable to read.

    Have a great week-end.
    Yvonne.

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  53. Sorry I haven't been here in a while, life has been crazy. But your pictures on your previous posts are gorgeous, and I hope you're having a good time. Thanks for sharing this wisdom on compelling characters! :)

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  54. And I'm just the opposite - I cannot write until I've defined my characters.

    So interesting everyone's take on this topic!

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  55. Hi Talli! I know how you mean! I can only hope that the MCs I've written about are compelling! XD

    Hope you're having fun.

    Come and visit me!

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  56. Love it Talli! It's so true :)

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  57. You are so right, Talli! Nice to have you still writing posts even if you are on holiday. Enjoy the rest of your stay there. Take care! :)

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  58. I'm a panster so I completely understand. Sometimes the characters just write themselves.

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  59. nudge the story so it falls around them

    I love that idea and I follow the same concept. My stories are mostly plot driven, but there are times when the character takes control and the plot needs to take a back seat! :)

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  60. me too. I find the character's characteristics while writing...and then fall in love with them when I really get to know them.

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  61. Lovely to see your photographs of beautiful Nova Scotia.

    I have to agree with you on writing characters. It doesn't work for me to sit down and plan what they are like before I start writing. I just have to begin writing and gradually they take shape in my head. I think the best thing is not to rush that process.

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  62. Thanks Talli! I am relieved to know that there isn't a right or wrong way to get to the heart of a character. The point is to get there!

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  63. I should sit down and write the damn story, too. But I am...so...tired. ARGH!

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  64. Having just read somethign where the characters were too stereotpyical - I threw the book on the floor!

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  65. I learn a lot about my characters during the first draft, too. Thanks for sharing!

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Coffee and wine for all!