Evanne Lorraine
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WIP Wednesday

December 10, 2008 | Uncategorized

Writing stories doesn’t seem all that different from reading them, just a lot more work. First, I need to be hooked. The next stage is immersing myself in the story world and getting to know the characters. The characters are alive in my head before a single word is written. But, translating that to the hard drive is an imperfect art.

The good news is that I don’t need to do it perfectly. The magic that happens when a book catches fire is part writer’s skill but the other part is the reader’s imagination. So, the writer’s job is to sketch the character with just enough detail to intrigue. Allowing the reader to fill in the nuances.

I’ve tried lots of different characterization approaches. There are a couple that work for me.

Color photos that match physical detail are placed on the WIP’s notebook cover. This saves referring to a bio, or worse the manuscript, when I need to know if the heroine’s eyes were blue or green years after I wrote the original story.

A playlist, containing the story’s theme song with tracks for all the major characters’ emotions is created and refined. The long version runs five or more hours. The short burns to CD, which keeps the story moving as I drive.

Written bios, one for each characters go in the notebook too. I’ve learned to leave plenty of white space so I can scribble updates as the story unfolds. By the time I reach the end there are stickies in addition to the hand-written notes.

Evanne’s Character Checklist

!) Do they have something of mine?

Every character gets something from me. A prejudice, a habit, a pet peeve, a character trait, a talent, a dream, an eccentric quirk, or a possession. To write them, I need to be interested in them and this deliberate act of transference helps the bonding process.

2) What defines them?

People are products of their environment and their genetic components, characters too. So what single event was the most crucial in making them who they are today?

3) What do they want?

Goals, goals, and more goals–who is a character without needs and ambitions?

4) Why do they want it?

Motivation, the key which unlocks the mystery of character behavior. The stronger the better for my taste, time pressure helps too.

5) Why can’t they have it?

Conflict, the core element of every good story. Inner conflict arises from character, which is why it’s so important to understand who they are first. Outer conflict hones and reveals character. There’s nothing like pressure to bring out the real character.

6) What does no one know about them?

Adding back a little mystery is good, layers are better, and complications are great.

7) What do they fear?

There’s no better road to character growth than conquering inner demons.

8) Does their name fit them?

I’ve driven myself nuts with re-naming–this demands thought up front.

9) Are they heroic enough? Sympathetic enough?

Tragic is fine. Tortured is good. Brooding is okay. Underneath all that there must be the heart of only slightly tarnished gold. Story stars must be bigger and better than real life folks. Noble, honorable, flawed but the hero and heroine still need to be sympathetic. Actually, I want my villains to evoke some empathy–even if it’s nothing more than a shuddered–there for the grace of god…

10) What are their flaws?

If those characters are going to resonate–they need imperfections as much as they need positive qualities–maybe more.

11) What makes them unique?

Memorable characters are special, different, individual. The writer showcases the lead characters with the story so those character need to be worthy of the effort.

12) How do they feel?

The character’s emotional response to story situations is the universal factor that pulls the reader into the story and keeps them glued to the page long after they should have turned off the lights and go to sleep. How the character reacts to events–mad, glad, bad, or sad is a start.  There’s more work, how do they express their feelings or hide them? And if they’re hiding them, what reveals the truth to the reader, to the other characters–eventually. This is the stuff you want to show, save telling for the weather and the scenery. Show emotion.

There you have my quirky list.

Posted by Evanne Lorraine @ 6:00 am  

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