Getting to know your characters.

United States
January 6, 2009 1:46am CST
Do you feel that you need to know your character inside and out before writing, or do you prefer to get to know them as you go along. I've tried both and don't really know which I prefer. They each have upsides and downsides.
3 responses
• United States
2 Mar 09
I have tried setting up sketches of my main characters before I start writing but they always grow and evolve into something that doesn't look anything like what I started with so I gave up. Now I just set up the basics - name, age, occupation, relationships - and let them develop from there. Sometimes even those things change before the story is finished.
1 person likes this
• United States
3 Mar 09
Isn't it funny how these fictional people take on a life of their own. They just morph on the screen right in front of you as you are typing. You think to yourself, "This is where the story is going," and then about a few keystrokes later, they hijack it and tell you "No, this is what happened." It can be unnerving, but in the end, I think it makes for a more organic story telling process. Things aren't always what they seem, life doesn't work like that. Stories are like life, or they should be.
• United States
4 Mar 09
To quote Mark Twain, "Of course truth is stranger than fiction. After all, fiction must be believable." I'm not really sure how that applies here but it was the first thing that came to me when I read your response
1 person likes this
@patgalca (15658)
• Orangeville, Ontario
7 Jan 09
I think it is best to know your character so you know how they would react to certain situations. I can build the characters as I go along but then find myself going back and changing some of the story to suit the character. I am currently reading a book called "No More Rejections" by Alice Orr. In a chapter about character she lists a bunch of questions you should ask yourself about your chracter. Another good book is "Building Believable Characters" by Mark McCutcheon. There is a whole lot of information in that book including facial expressions, different types of houses, clothing, languages, etc. A fountain of information... my writing bible.
1 person likes this
• United States
3 Mar 09
That second one sounds really good. I'll have to check it out. I think you're right. In some ways being an author is like being an actor. You have to know what's the "motivation," otherwise your characters are cut-outs moving around your work. They need to feel like real people dealing the way people deal. That doesn't always mean that logic is involved. Thanks for responding and I apologize for taking so long to get back to you.
• United States
9 Apr 09
I am a creative writing teacher at the local high school, and I spent a lot of time teaching my students about characters. Building a good character involves several concepts, such as understanding your character's underlying self image, determining character traits and tags, and revealing your character through their interactions with their environment and one another. I wrote three in-depth articles about characters which I have linked in my 'Tips' section on my website, http://christianmarcher.com for your convenience. The lessons that will help you most are Lesson 5, All About Characters, Lesson 6 Heroes, Sidekicks and Villains, and Lesson 7, Character Traits and Tags. I hope this helps! If you have any further questions, please contact me. Christian M. Archer