What process does a writer go through when bringing a character to life on paper? Words alone do not make you feel for them or become vested in their future. Myndi Shaffer wrote a great piece about getting to know your characters better when you dig into their underwear drawer. In addition to peeking into their secret treasure hidey holes I suggest taking sometime familiarizing yourself with their backstory. What do the characters do when they aren’t appearing in the pages of the story?
Characters should present themselves, becoming three dimensional people that readers can become vested in, maybe even fall in love with. Of course you don’t want to do this for every character. Some are meant to be peripheral and should be left that way – i.e. the mailman, the waitress at the diner, a passer-by the protagonist has a two-line exchange with. Unless, of course, the writer has bigger plans for these players.
Today I have one of the main characters from my WIP to introduce to you – one that I believe I have developed into a fully three dimensional individual. Meet Crystia, sister to my protagonist. I have mentioned her twice before on this blog. Once in a post honoring my sister and again when I listed seven things about my story. Crystia has a big day ahead of her. I am doing a guest post today for a fellow YA author and so I decided to share her voice with the world! As of today 329,670 words have been written in this story across three books, but none of them are in her words. So I’m excited to share a piece written in her own voice.
Junior in High School, living in a small desert town
Drives an old, weathered 80’s Ford Mustang
Shops thrift stores and retro fashions for her look
Long, straight, very light blonde hair
Heterochromia eyes with bright blue contacts
5’6” with wafer thin build
her personal theme song…
Free-spirited and full of life, you now have the opportunity to meet her in a situation very personal and in her own voice. To read this special piece from her backstory, follow the link over to Krystal Wade’s blog. We hope to see you there!
Teaser: I watch as he nervously runs his hand through his dirty blond hair and studies the scene of the crime – my bed. The place where he just stole my virginity.
Krystal Wade is the author of the up and coming YA novel Wilde’s Fire, available later this year! Be on the look-out for the start of this gripping fantasy trilogy and check out her website for updates.
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37 thoughts on “-Bringing a Character to Life-”
I love that you picked out a theme song for her! I used to do that with my RPG characters (I’m nerdy, I know), to help myself and others get a feel for the character. I also have been writing short stories involving some of the characters in a novel I’m still fleshing out. I think it’s great to help hone your writing skills, as well as get to know the characters. It’s also helpful to think about what a typical day in the life of your characters is like. Imagine just an average day and how they react throughout it.
Very good post! 🙂
Hi Aly! Delighted to meet you. I do that too! I have my character’s entire week all scheduled out. It helps a lot getting a feel for who they are and why they do the things that they do. Thanks for that excellent input!
Can’t wait to get to work to get this party started! 😉
Sounds like a girl I’d like to go shopping with! Thanks for sharing her with us, Debra. I LOVE the fact that your writing honors your sister. 🙂 Can’t wait to check out Krystal’s blog, too.
Thank you August. It was one of those things that wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened.
I already love her based on your list! She sounds unique and I’m curious to find out her story!!
Aw! Thanks Coleen! She is rather special.
Sounds like a great character, Debra! Mine are always a blend of several people — and of course we authors usually have a good chunk of ourselves in each. Curious how your sister reacts to this.
I can see that. I think a touch of me goes into each one. Crystia is not 100 % my sister, but I sometimes feel like she influenced her design a lot. 😀 I had an entire week alone with my muse when that character was created. I think she would approve of her.
I visited Krystal’s blog and loved the scene. Your characters seem compelling and full of life.
You already wrote over 300k words! That’s amazing.
I can’t wait to read the series!
Thank you Fabio! I’m so glad you loved the scene. 🙂 Can you believe my progress has slowed severely since October? LOL I would probably be done with the third draft if I hadn’t taken up blogging. But I do love blogging!
I had to rush right over to Krystal’s blog and read the scene. It’s wonderful, Debra. Thanks for sharing it today!
You are so very welcome Sheila. I was tickled to share it with everyone. 🙂 I am so pleased you enjoyed it.
Headed over to Krystal’s blog, now!
You’re super awesome Paige. 😀
Eeekee…I can tell she and I would be FAST friends, shopping and going out dancing!! Love it!!
She would be totally down with that!
Thanks for sharing your behind-the-scenes workings. It’s always nice to get a peek at how others do it. I really like the idea of a theme song. I want one for myself, too!
I believe it was Lisa that did a post about a personal theme song. I could be mistaken though. That post really made me think about mine. It’s constantly changing. My protagonist’s theme song changes from book to book. When you pick your’s I do hope you’ll share. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this, Debra. I always enjoy seeing other writers’ processes, especially when it comes to things like character development.
Ah, you’re welcome. It’s been a fun post to put together. I’m glad you enjoyed it. 😀
I love this post (and the guest post at Krystal’s blog). Character creation is SO important, isn’t it? You can tell fairly soon when you’re reading a book where the author skimped on that part of the story. Usually those are the ones I can’t finish reading. I used to try, thinking they HAD to get better…but they never did. So I don’t waste my time anymore.
Maybe the reason some writer’s don’t invest enough time is that it’s hard work. You can’t just say your hero is six feet tall, brown eyed, blond haired and works as a car salesman. By the time I start writing I know whether they’ve had their appendix out, if they broke a leg at seven years old, that they have an addiction to Snickers, that they are closet Barry Manilow fans…stuff that might never end up in the story, but I need to know it to know the character.
As always, Debra…great article! 🙂
Can’t wait to read this book Debra. She sounds intriguing.
Thank you Louise!
The process of creating my characters is usually long and it doesn’t end until I finish writing the first draft. They always evolve, despite me trying to keep them “still” 🙂
It’s so cool that you based your protagonist on your own sister. I rarely base my characters on anyone I know but it is a great idea.
Some of my characters are still in the development stage. They took a longer time showing things to me. Now that I am in book three I need to go back to one and make some changes to adjust for the things they have shown me.
As for Crystia, I didn’t set out to use my sister as a template. She just started taking on some of the traits. It may have been part of the grieving process and something I needed to do.
Oh my goodness, I’m so late in getting over here! Great post – and thanks so much for linking with mine!
That’s alright! I am late to most of the parties. 🙂 You are very welcome for the link. You deserve it. Thank you for the compliment.
I’m late getting here too. Headed over to check out the other post now 🙂
Did you do the stretches yourself? I’ve always wished I could draw my characters rather than depending on what I can find on the internet for visuals, but sadly that’s not a talent I possess.
Meant “sketches” not “stretches.” Sigh. I clearly need another cup of coffee before I’m allowed to speak or type in public.
🙂 I knew what you meant. I do that stuff all the time. I don’t trust myself anymore. My eyes won’t focus until noon. LOL I did do the sketch. It was a quick one and I’m not that pleased with it. I almost didn’t post it. When I finish writing the story I MIGHT take the time to draw up the characters correctly. Then again – that’s time consuming. And I could be using that time for editing or starting on my next project. I usually like others art better. I’ve collected cards when at shows. Maybe I’ll hire someone. 😀
Super fabulous post, Debra! I totally do this ~ I post pictures on a corkboard by my desk with all sorts of pictures of character ideas. I’ll do a complete background for my MCs and some lesser characters if I have time. I never thought of a theme song, though. That’s a cool idea and has me thinking now… hmm… I’m sure I’ll hear songs in completely new ways and associate them to characters now. Thanks for letting us get to know Crystia a little more.
I have that same corkboard! Backgrounds are so important, aren’t they? They help us understand the characters so much better. You are very welcome Tameri! Have fun shopping for theme songs!
I adore getting a glimpse into characters’ heads and hearing their voices, and I love that you’ve given Crystia a theme song. That’s one of my favorite processes in the character development and planning process (though my characters always seem to end up with whole playlists devoted to them), and helps me getting into the writing groove.
Great excerpt as well! I’m definitely looking forward to reading more. 😀
Thanks Lena! Right now I am selfishly keeping all book material to myself. I am only sharing backstory stuff, odd and ends. Things like that.