Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creating Character

This month’s question for the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog came from Sarah:
How do you develop your characters? Do you flesh out the details before (like writing as that character, writing backstory, or filling out a questionnaire about their preferences and history) or invent as you go?

When it comes to creating characters, I’m a combination of a plotter and a pantster.  I create character sheets with physical info, fears and desires.  I determine ages, rages, and backstory.  Then I start writing.

But as military strategists will tell you, the best laid plans don’t survive engagement with the enemy.  Or in my case, with my subconscious.  My characters take on lives of their own, and some of them flatly refuse the plans I’ve made for them.  One of my minor antagonists nearly took over the story, and he definitely became a protagonist, helping to save the heroine in the last chapter.  If I ever rewrite that novel, I suspect I’ll need to start with him instead of the MC I’d chosen, and base more of the story on his actions.

Because of my pantster tendencies (and that sounds strange from a confirmed plotter), I don’t like questionnaires.  Knowing that much about the character confines my imagination too much.  Yet pinning down minor attributes, such as hobbies and clothing, can help me add details and subplots for richer and deeper characters.

How about you?  How do you create and define your characters?


  1. We have a lot of similarities with our character building. I do the character sheets but even so there is something confining about them. Often I end up trashing half of what I wrote on those sheets anyway.

    I love that picture of Churchill!

  2. Hi Lydia! My sheets are covered with scribbles by the time I'm done, too.

    Yeah, Churchill was making plans - to attack my feet! LOL!


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