Making a Character Real
So I have spent some serious time writing my latest book, right? I even sent the first three chapters to a top agent in the business. Just what I'm supposed to do, right?
And this top agent was so very kind to not only read my three chapters, but provide some very good feedback that helped me tremendously.
In fact, it stopped me in my tracks.
And...made me stop writing for a few weeks!
But that's okay. As a result, I went back and made the suggested changes that the agent offered.
What changes were those?
She told me she needed to know more about my main character in order to like her. She said something was lacking. And she was right.
The Character Sketch
As an artist, I love to draw and paint. But I tend to be impatient. I want to get what's inside my head down on the paper FAST before I lose it.
And the drawing rarely comes out like I want it to because I rushed it.
Pablo Picasso often completed hundreds of sketches before he ever put paint to canvas. My art professors agreed with this method and would often have me complete many sketches before actually starting the painting.
I have learned it is the same in writing.
We writers tend to have our characters completed inside our heads, but forget many important details when we finally put them down on paper.
But this is easy to remedy with the Character Sketch.
There are many ways to complete this task. There are character worksheets, which I have blogged about here before. There are sketches that are in paragraph form where you free write about your character.
And there is another way to complete this task: Asking questions.
Questions Questions Questions
Get out a piece of paper and ask yourself these questions about your main character:
- What does he/she look like? What does her face tell us about her personality? Does he have any unusual characteristics?
- Does she speak quickly or slowly? Loudly? Softly? Why?
- What kind of clothes does she wear? How does she do her makeup? What does his hair look like? What does this tell us about him?
- Where is this character now? How do her surroundings add to the sketch?
- What's in his background? What does he do for a living? What about her family? What's her education?
- What kind of person is he? Relaxed? Busy? Pleasant? Obnoxious? Intelligent? Dense? Kind? Cruel? Thoughtful? Forgetful?
- What kind of thoughts are going on inside her head? Is she emotional? What does she believe in? Is he opinionated?
Bringing It All Together
Now that we have a sketch about your main character, it's time to bring it all together. Take some time to select some of the answers to your questions.
Write three paragraphs about your character keeping your reader in mind. Write about the main theme that ties her to the most important plot points in your story.
Why should your reader care about this character?
|Drawing of my son I completed years ago...|
Getting It Right
In drawing, sketching is light and easy. The artists uses a light touch because this isn't the final drawing. Lines will need to be erased before the final drawing is started. There is light shading and no darkest darks.
Character sketches should be the same way. You should be willing to take away details and add some if need be.
And that's what happened with my character. This nice agent wanted to like my main character, but there just wasn't enough there to grab her attention.
I had to go back and add some details that would make the reader like her, want to be friends with her, and want to know even more about her.
It's the same with drawing. In the finished drawing, you see more details. You see the darker shading and values. Now the drawing comes to life!
So, as you can see, the Character Sketch can be an excellent tool to help you develop your characters. It takes time and causes you to slow down and really think about those details the reader needs to know in order to "get" your character and care about what happens to him or her.
You want your reader to turn the page in order to find out more, right?
Good strong characters will do the trick!
Your turn: How do you develop your characters? Do you have a tool that works best for you?