Thursday, July 30, 2009

When Characters Have a Mind of Their Own

My characters have a mind of their own. Not a bad thing at all, really, except when they want to take off on a detour that doesn't support the plot. I did extensive character interviews before beginning this novel, so each of their personalities are well-defined in my head. It makes the conversations fun and easy to write - most of the time.

Every now and then a character has their own idea - one I hadn't planned on including. The strange thing is, I'm finding they are usually right, and I'm not. When I'm stuck or confused, I pull out their character sheet, and sure enough, their needs, flaws, desires and worldview support the words and action they wish to take. My job is to make sure it supports the logline and sticks to the plot. It's a puzzle, and I love creative problem solving.

I've looked at quite a few character interviews and worksheets. Some are intricate and others are bare-boned. I keep mine simple by using the following format:

• Character name and physical description
• 5 important facts
• List of hobbies
• Personality traits
• Character Flaw
• Needs of character
• Desires of character
• Worldview before inciting incident
• Worldview after inciting incident

I like this format because it usually fits on one page and is easy to read. A necessary thing for this easily-distracted brain! What tools do you use for character plans? I'd love to know!


Anne Spollen said...

I definitely think characters take on a life of their own as you write them. When this happens to me, I feel a little crazy -- I MADE you, you should do what I have planned.

It's good training for when you look at your kids and think the same thing...

Nora MacFarlane said...

Ha! Isn't that the truth!!!!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

What a thorough list!
I like the surprises characters throw at me--thinking about what odd past memory they have, how they treat their mother, what they carry in their purse.

Rena said...

That's a great list. I've been looking through some character worksheets lately, but some are just too complicated for what I'm thinking of. Yours seems simple, but thorough.

Christina Farley said...

Oh I totally agree with you. I guess that's why sometimes I have to do so many drafts. I'm also getting to "know" my characters better each time.

I read on someone's blog to do a scrapbook page on your character. I think that would help me out so I'm going to try that next time.

Rena said...

Hi Nora -- I gave you an award on my blog today. Thanks so much for your support on mine. :)

Nora MacFarlane said...

Thanks, Rena!

10ec said...

why does this make the think of the tee shirt i have seen......Your just jealous because the voices only talk to me......

Thanks for making me smile....I wish I had your talent to write. I guess my gift is photography though