Monday, July 12, 2010

Writing in 140: Connecting with Characters

Featuring guest star, author Miki Starr Martin [website].

Shon: How do you connect with your characters?

Miki: I become the characters. They’re not external beings for me. I’m not an observer writing things that I see. It’s like acting. An actor/actress becomes the part they are playing and so it becomes real for them, the emotions, reactions, gestures. In the moment of telling the story, it IS my reality. How do you connect?

Shon: I work on character dossiers. A dossier may have images of what the character looks like, the car she drives, the house she lives in, siblings, parents, etc. I write about where the character was just before a story begins, her fears, joys, memorable moments, morals, etc. Sometimes, I jump into a story without these things, but I always find myself coming back to develop dossiers.

How do you connect with your characters?

Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically, and her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell is now available for purchase. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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  1. Interesting post.

    I think there are two types of characters that I connect with most easily; the characters that are "me", and those that are "anti-me". The rest I find difficult >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  2. I start with the conflict, then deal with the sort of character I can throw the most at. From there, they unfold. They're real to me--they chatter at me all day long (and often into the night.)

  3. I tend to approach characters the same way Miki does. I've had a lot of fun "being" the bad guys in my wip.

  4. Cold As Heaven...I never thought about it that way, but I SO agree! The ones that are "me" are so easy to connect with, which would make it easy to connect with those characters the opposite of me.

  5. I am just starting to get a kick out of being the bad guy in a WIP, Patricia, LOL VERY fun.

  6. Move over, Darth Vader. We all have our dark sides, and imposing them on the antagonists in our stories is a socially acceptable outlet for the negative (ugly even) characteristics we possess. Beyond that, I find a bit of myself (and those flesh and blood souls I connect with) in many of my characters.

  7. These short pieces are very effective, Shon. My characters often come to me full blown. I can see them and have a sense of who they are. Maybe not all the details of past, etc, but as real people. Then I do a short bio so I have some concrete facts about their life up to that point.

  8. My characters are known to me from the beginning. But to really flesh out the details, I do a worksheet on the main and secondary characters.

  9. I do sort of a combination of the two. I keep notes on the character, but once I know them well enough, I do a big of "channeling." I let them go and see where they take me. Sometimes that works. Sometimes I have to cut and direct them.

  10. This is a timely post for me, because I'm struggling with this issue right now in my WIP. I connected intensely with one major character - I looked most forward to writing his sections, and his parts were the ones I "lived" the most. Tears streamed down my face as I wrote him.

    I didn't feel the same strong connection with my other major character (which is odd, because she's much more "me" than he is). I found myself writing *about* her more than writing her, which is the major problem I'm now working to correct in revisions. Now I'm in her head, and I'm writing her from scratch, and she's coming alive in a way she didn't before.

    I think one reason is that when it came to her character, I was a planner. She was the vehicle that drove a lot of the plot/story, and the story led her as a character. With him, though, I was a pantser. I didn't have him outlined as thoroughly, and his character led the story.

  11. Often I can connect easier with characters that are my complete opposites. My imagination works better that way.

    Morgan Mandel

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  13. I'm in an interesting spot with my latest project because I'm revisiting characters I've written about before and incorporating new characters to the story. What's interesting? I don't have the trusty outline or dossiers or character write-ups I normally have. Totally out of my comfort zone, but I think piece-mealing and learning about characters as I go will be a good exercise for me.


  14. I'm one of those who becomes her characters, even if it's in a very small way, as well. Everything in my novels is personal ... which makes sense, they're MY novels after all :)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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