Monday, July 16, 2012

Digging Deeper

I'm at that point in my latest manuscript where I am creating all my character profiles. I've learned over the years that if you don't dig deep into your characters' psyches, they come out rather cardboard.

By digging deep I mean going beyond the basics. Past physical descriptions, GMCs and their environment.

For me, the very core of character comes from the M in GMC, the character's motivations. I delve into that motivation to figure out where that "Why" came from.

Was his mother an alcoholic? Is that why he has an aversion to meeting women in bars or to dating women who partake in even social drinking? Even subtler clues can provide great fodder for personalities, phobias and tastes. Maybe his childhood friends made fun of his hand-me-down clothes. Would he grow up to be a fashion plate?

I find the more I know about a character's childhood, early dating life, school experiences, parents and siblings, etc., the easier it is to create a real, non-cardboard person.

What about you? Do you have a certain way of mining your characters to bring them to life?


Author Gail DeYoung said...

I find the best way to understand my characters is to have an "interview" where I pretend like they're sitting in front of me and I ask questions and wait for their answers. Sometimes their answers are quite eye-opening and I ask, "where did that come from?" It's fun and a much easier task than doing a profile, which doesn't give as many interesting results.

Wynter Daniels said...

That's interesting, Gail. I know some authors who do that. In fact, Deb Dixon, author of the book on GMC does that in brainstorming sessions. She plays her character and has the audience shoot questions at her.

Terry Odell said...

I'm constantly asking my characters (and me, of course) WHY he/she is doing something, which goes right back to the M in GMC. It can be an easy answer -- he's stopping at Burger King because he's hungry -- or something much more deeply rooted. It's one thing to say, "OK, my character's going to be claustrophobic", but until you dig for the "why", it's going to come across as a plot device.

Terry's Place

Wynter Daniels said...

Absolutely, Terry - the "why" is the make or break for character building.

Naima Simone said...

Digging into a character's motivation is one of the most fun and fascinating parts of fleshing out a book. I love discovering what has molded them into the person they are. What drives them, what makes them tick, their fears, habits, and quirks. When I'm figuring that out, I just brainstorm. Just write personality characteristics and then jot down what events would lead to those traits. Before long--well a page or two long--I have my character's soul. It's like playing psychologist!

Jina Bacarr said...

The power of the "why" is so important in creating a character--why does a philosophy-loving serial killer like to eat at McDonald's while writing poetry on a yellow pad?

Interesting...I'll have to work on that.