Character Development

My intern, Kuro, wrote an amazing post about character development. For me, characters make the story. I think, or hope, most writers feel the same way. So creating three dimensional characters is important. Here she is to explain more.

KURO:

I’ve prepared this basic questionnaire in order to assist people of all writing levels with character development. Although there is usually more to it, this form can prove to be quite useful when creating an outline of your character.

Basic Information

Name:

(I like having a name with meaning, and not an obvious one either. For example: Adlai. This is a name of a character in one of my older stories. It is of Hebrew origin, and it means “Justice of God”. Of course, you may have to do some research beforehand, but that’s alright. Take your time.)

Zodiac Sign (optional):

(A zodiac sign gives the reader a notion of the character’s birthday without the author having to worry about choosing a precise date. Although I don’t usually do this, I’ve noticed that many writers fancy choosing a zodiac sign.)

Age:

Gender: 

(You can be more creative than you think with gender. Maybe they are a male that unintentionally gets confused for a female constantly? It’s fun to have ‘trap’ characters sometimes. It can add humor to the story when its needed.)

Family: 

(Talk about this persons parents, their siblings (if any), and their overall relationship with their family. I think that its better to describe it in good detail rather than just “its bad/good”, but it’s your choice. It may not even be necessary depending on the plot of your story anyway.)

 

Mentality

Educational background:

(What kind of school they went to and how this experience was for them? If your character has a rather impressive IQ, it would be a good time to mention that here.)

Personality:

(The personality of a character is my personal favorite part of the character development process. You’d think that there aren’t many different traits you could build this character with, but that’s where creativity comes in. It’s best to make a character with little clichés.  )

Here are a few general traits that are usually worth explaining (optional, but at least do two):

Are they (a/an)…

Sensitive or analytical (do they make decisions based mostly on emotions or on logic)?

If a reason why exists, explain it:

Cautious or daring? If a reason why exists, explain it:

 

Optimist, pessimist, realist, maybe other? If a reason why exists, explain it:

Extrovert or introvert? If a reason why exists, explain it: 

It gets even better…

Gifts/talents:

(Please be careful with this….catastrophes are born in this area. Give a character too much perks and they become severely unlikeable.)

Flaws:

(You should try to keep a good balance between the gifts and the shortcomings, but you must be careful here too. Compensating superhuman gifts with devilish flaws can become just as disastrous.)

Style of speech:

(This may not seem too important, but it actually reflects the personality, the educational level, the social status, etc. of the character. Do they speak clearly, or have a stutter? Do they tend to be profane, or prefer to be formal? What is there tone of voice?)

Life philosophy (optional):

(You can pick a quote for this if you want to.)

Religious stance:

(If relevant, this also includes the character’s relationship with other belief systems.)

Biggest vulnerability: 

(Be careful with this one.)

 

Relationships

View on relationships:

(Try to give an explanation for these views, if possible. Take your time.

There are people who adore solitude and think of relationships as prisons, and sometimes there are extremely dependent people who always need someone by their side. There are all kinds of options here.)

Sexual orientation:

There is a whole spectrum between straight and gay, and I have characters in many of those spots. Knowing the difference between bi-curiousness, heteroflexibility and bisexuality – and knowing which characters are in each group – makes a huge difference when you’re writing about their sexualities. If not straight, is your character in the closet? If yes, why? If not, how did he/she come out?

Past relationships (optional):

(Optional…and awkward) How does he/she view sexual experiences?  What is the importance of sex for this character? This can range anywhere from waiting until marriage, to thinking it isn’t a big deal, to having a severe aversion towards everything about it:

Are they a social person? Explain:

 (Remember. There is such thing as “social introverts”, as well as “antisocial extroverts”. You must be somewhat familiar with the spectrum of different personalities before making a decision here.)

How important are friends to them?

Who are their most salient friends? Write a little bit about how they met, the things they went through, and what made them become so close.And if necessary, what tore their friendship apart:

(Note: “Salient”=most important/most noticeable.)

(Specify please. Which friends are most prominent? Perhaps the oldest, the closest, the one(s) who never left, maybe even the controversial friend that disappeared from your characters life, but remains missed regardless?)

Vocation *

This section is required if your character has a career.

Profession:

Past occupations:

(You don’t need to list an entire resume here, but it’s useful to know.)

Attitude towards current job: 

(Is it your character’s dream job? Are they working towards a bigger goal? Is he/she doing it because they have no choice/is it forced labor?)

(OPTIONAL) Attitude towards current co-workers and bosses:

(Optional. Apply if useful) Salary:

 

Secrets

I love this part.

What are their….

 Greatest phobias, and why? Explain:

Life goals/dreams. Explain: 

(If relevant) Compulsions/obsessions: 

(Can range anywhere from strange, to just plain disturbing.)

Secret skills: 

(Be cautious here.)

Do they want to change anything about their current life?

Do they want to change anything about their appearance?

Physical

Overall description:

(Please explain this as thoroughly as possible.)

Hair color and style: 

(You can use a reference here if you want too.)

Eye color/eye shape

Mannerisms:

(I can use myself as an example. I twirl my hair…a lot. If you find it relevant, go ahead and explain how the character feels about their habits.)

Style:

(Our clothing sometimes reflects who people are more than they realize.)

 

Athletic? Average? Dangerously thin? Explain if necessary:

 

Extra details (everything here is optional)

Daily routine:

Night owl or early bird?

Light or heavy sleeper? Sleepwalking and insomnia can be added here:

 

(Tip: Try to be as general as possible in the next few questions. For example, unless your character has a particular taste for a specific flavor of Sushi, you’ll be just fine with saying “Sushi” or “Japanese cuisine”.)

Favorite cuisine/food:

Smoker/drinker/drug user? (College experimenting counts): _

OOC trait: Everyone has an out-of-character trait. What is your characters? Explain if necessary:

***Special thanks to Kuro for providing this. She definitely gave me a few things to think about, and hopefully you found it useful as well. Anything else you want to add? Leave in the comments below! 🙂

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Catching Up by Cheating

Wow. It’s been too long since I posted.

In my defense, it was a pretty hellish Christmas break. I know this is kinda cheating but I have actually been blogging. Once a week I contribute to Nights of Passion. Well, contribute is a strong word. That would imply I add some value. Mostly I just fill up space. Anyway, to read about my crazy but successful winter break — and I define successful as not murdering my children — you click here.

Just before that, I won my first MargaRITA award with my local RWA group! Actually, I won 3! Most of which I’m embarrassed about. To read more about that, click here. (I’m so lazy)

Lately, I’ve been hibernating deep in my warm (but messy) writing cave, working hard on Kept and my New Adult coming soon, Boy Meets Nerd (more details to come).

In branching out into the New Adult world, I’m going to be revamping my website (again), and rebranding Leia Shaw to include contemp humor. What do you think? Can I pull it off? I’m excited for this new genre and adventure. I’m also trying my hand at writing first person, which is an adjustment. You can read more about that here. It’s a good change of pace. I hope you guys love the new voice and changes coming up soon! But as always, you can still expect quality writing, snark, and sexiness 🙂

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How was your winter break? What are you looking forward to most this New Year?

To the Bat Cave!

Ironically, the place I’ve needed to be the last couple of weeks is in my bat cave (i.e. writing cave), but I only just got one of those this weekend. My writer cave has been the local cafe for the past several months because, though I have a laptop and technically can work anywhere, curled up on the couch under a blanket is surprisingly not productive (in case you’ve never done it, it often leads to long leisurely naps – especially when one has the luxury of staying in pajamas all day). So you can see why a bat cave was essential for my career.

So this weekend, hubby and I cleaned out a room, took a trip to Ikea, and made me a bat cave!

Since I’m a completely unorganized mess (which makes me interesting, right?), plus I have nothing better to write about, I thought I’d share my new bat cave with you.

With each picture, you will see evidence of productivity and inspiration. Well, it may not be obvious to you, but I’ll be sure to point it out.

So here is my desk. In a moment, we’ll take a look a closer look at its contents so you can see how a disorganized bat cave is formed. But first, take special notice of the color scheme. It’s hard to tell in the photo but the desk is actually quite purple. I initially picked out a very sophisticated dark serious-looking desk that I figured would inspire me to buckle down and be all serious-like. Then I grabbed some hot pink accents to give it some personality. But near the check-out, we saw the scratch and dent section and found this purple sucker for only $50. And because I’m cheap and lazy, I took that one instead and didn’t go back to change my accent colors. Therefore, I’m left with a hot pink and pale purple office. I’m thinking about painting the walls lime green and just going all out with it. What do you think?

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Clue #1 that I’m a productive writer.

office5I have a white board! That alone tells you something, right? Even better is my super helpful To Do list. It’s both practical and inspiring! (In case you can’t see what it says… 1. Write 2. Avoid facebook 3. See #1) Speaking of inspiring, check out the pictures of my kids! Usually they’re productivity leeches, but since the money I make from writing goes to vacations, activities, and my daughter’s private school, I often need reminders of why I put myself through this torture again and again.

Clue #2

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I have books! Therefore I’m a writer.

Clue #3

office1The computer is my tool. Coffee is my oxygen. The poster of my book cover is because I have nowhere else to put it.

Clue #4

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See that hangy thing right there? That’s my name badge from RT last year. I had soooo much fun and met some truly amazing people. So I hung that right there where I can see it from my desk to remind me of anther reason I do my job. To bring my awesome fans great books.

And there you have it. My disorganized, pink and purple, super inspirational bat cave. What’s your space look like? Do you have things in your work space (whatever work that might be) that inspire you to keep going? I’d love to hear from you!