“Whooo?”- Character Development from an Owl’s POV

As much as I try not to, I can’t help it. I still giggle when I see the car insurance commercial with the female owl irritated with the famous “Whooing” male owl oblivious to her life ramblings. I always look at my husband  when it comes on and we both giggle as it definitely reminds us of how irritated I get when I reference someone I have talked about earlier in a conversation with him and he responds, “Who?” 

Now this has become a daily conversation insert where we will randomly be talking to one another about someone and we will throw in a random “Who?” with a little giggle and then continue where we left off. It’s funny how these random advertising ploys hook us into embedding them into our daily conversation. I could think of many more, but I digress.

So over the past week and a half, I have been working on character development.  And I figured my “Whooo?” intro would be appropriate. Character development has been on mind and I wanted to share what I have learned and what is working for me thus far.

To all of my pantser friends (I beg you not to cringe), I am 100% a plotter so my desk is covered with numerous character charts, character questionnaires, surveys, personality tests and a slew of other character development tools. As this is my first novel, I am taking great strides to make sure that I really know my fictional friends before I base a 80,000 word story around them.

Before I began generating information about my characters, I was seriously intimidated by them. A week ago, I didn’t know them. As silly as that seems. I knew their place in my novel, but I didn’t really know them. I didn’t know their goals or understand their motivations. I didn’t completely understand their back stories and how those stories motivated them to behave the way they do in my novel. But now, thanks to my handy dandy charts and surveys, I know their motivations and their secret habits of binge eating cookies in the middle of the night. 🙂

Throughout this whole character development process, I have learned that developing your characters is equivalent to a friendship. You don’t know everything about your best friend the first day you meet them. You discover their personality and who they are over time. This is how fiction characters are as well. Or perhaps, the reverse. You, as the author, do know everything about them in a short period of time, but it is your job to gradually reveal your character slowly throughout the story’s plot through his/her actions.

So at first, I was afraid of figuring out the details of my characters. I now have that down. Print off a few character charts/questionnaires and you are good to go. Now my next challenge is to embed this information gradually in my writing imagining if the reader is putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle of my character piece by piece. I plan on doing this with using my trusty novel outline, planning out each scene and working in the unveiling of my characters as I go.

What works for you? How do you develop your characters? What is your process for building an understanding for “whooo?” they are with your audience?

Meeting My Literary Match: Discovering Your Own Fictional Self

I recently started watching a new TV cable series and had the “aha!” moment when I realized that I enjoyed the dysfunctional main character for one particular reason. She was me! There I was, in fictional form, right on the television screen! How awkward.

It was a very strange experience, I must admit. And to add to it, not only did I recognize Hanna Horvath’s physical appearance, flaws and insecurities in myself, but so did my finance which made the realization even more awkward. The fact that Hanna is an aspiring writer who is working on her first e-book just sealed my fate as the real life Hanna. The best line in the show goes something like this as Hanna is talking to a random stranger at a NYC party. She is explaining to him that she is writing an e-book and he states. “An e-book? That’s like not a real book, right?” Ha! All of my writer blogger friends can have a good chuckle at this as I did.

In all seriousness, I have discovered finding your literary version of yourself can be a self-defining experience, or re-fining for those of you out in the world that have a solid sense of self and who you are as a person. I was never one of those people. It of course started as a child being self-conscious of everything about me. As a result, I grew up to be an insecure teenager who had trouble making decisions and deciding what I liked or disliked that would define me as an individual. I tended to be an easy-going, wishy-washy type of person. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties and early thirties that I realized these characteristics in myself and now I am more conscious to define and express my views and interests so that I know who I am. This may sound foreign to those of you out there who have always had a strong sense of self. I was never one of those people and always hung in the background, following the leads and interests of others.

So as a result, when I meet this Hanna on TV, I realize that she helps me to redefine myself even further. I see additional characteristics in her that I have as well, but ones that I never had identified with earlier. And in reverse, I see characteristics in her that are most definitely not me, and that in turns defines my self further.

I am not sure how common it is for people to find their real life characters. For one it is difficult to not only find someone that looks like you, but also acts like you as well. Nonetheless, it has been an interesting experience as a writer and I would love to hear from others on this topic as well!

 

OBSESSED! Part Two

So I was driving home today and totally missed my turn because I was mentally debating which Hollywood actors would play the characters in my novel. Oh well, the day dream was worth the extra 10 minutes it took to get home.

Now seriously. This is starting to get ridiculous.

I debated even sharing this with all of you as I didn’t want to come off as so egocentric to think that my nonexistent novel is worth that sort of notoriety. If nothing less, it was an unintentional, but very effective way to help develop characters. I would strongly recommend it to anyone!

OBSESSED!!!!

So, I have decided that I am officially OBSESSED with the characters in my non-existent novel. Let’s please emphasize the word, non-existent. I seriously don’t even have a word written or an outline constructed yet.

 I just drove 5 hours from being out of town and I can’t stop thinking about them! I wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t stop thinking about them. I believe that it is enough, you get the picture without making myself sound like a complete psychotic mess!

Honestly, I am just amazed at how an idea implants itself in your brain and then it keeps growing and adapting and changing and getting larger and eventually developing into a huge project, aka a novel. This is my first time experiencing this “high” of beginning a new novel so please bear with me! I know halfway through I will be over it and want to start a new one. But I can definitely understand how many writers express how they become attached to their characters and view them as friends or are sad when they are killed off in the plot. At first I thought that sounded a bit bizarre, but now, I completely get it. You become attached to these “people” considering they are all that I have thought about for the past 48 hours!!!

If there is anyone that can empathize with my new obsession, I would greatly appreciate that you comment on my post so I can take some bit of comfort that I have not completely lost my mind!

Awkwardness??!!!

I hope that I am not alone when I say if I hear the lyrics to “Someone That I Used To Know” by Gotye one more time, I may actually attempt to stab my eyes out.

But with this said, I can’t help to think of this song as I develop the characters for my new novel. I have received great advice from veteran writers that suggest basing writing off of your own experiences is a good way to develop your characters, setting, and plot. So here is my question that perturbs me as we attempt to base characters off of people we know (or used to know).

When your family and friends read your novel, isn’t it most awkward when your sister says, “Hey Kim. That character Timothy in your novel. The one that is a drug addict? Did you create him based off of our cousin Phillip?” Or this one…..your boyfriend asks you, “Hey what sexual experience did you base that sex scene off of because it most definitely wasn’t with me.”

Ahhhhh, yes. Awkwardness.

So these are my fears about creating characters based off of people that you know. I am understanding that there is a fine line between using your own experiences and mingling fiction with fact. Or I also see switching and swapping personality traits among your “pool” of people that you know as a plausible option.

How do you choose and develop your characters? Do you base them from people that you know or completely fictionalize them or do a combination of both?