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?