Friday, June 25, 2010

Characters...The Good, The Bad and The Oh So Beautiful!

Some characters are so evil they compel us to hate them. Others are so enchanting that they haunt us long after the story is complete. Whatever scenario your characters paint, they are an essential component to the tales we so intricately weave.

The characters in my stories are the first necessary ingredient that I add. I've read countless phenomenal posts about character development and voice within dialogue and in order to keep those concepts straight in my head I jot down a rough paragraph about my character. Including a few key pieces:

1. Name-As you all know this part is not as easy as it sounds, but I can't write about a character until I find the perfect name.
2. Description-Hair color, eye color, I have to have that all straight in my head.
3. Special Powers (If any apply)
4. Personality description.

Time consuming? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. Welcome to the madness of my methods. Call it a quirk...insanity...whatever. I can't explain it either. But for me it's like trying to sleep with dirty dishes in the sink. I can't function until it's done.

In my MS for Fatal Beauties Demonica is one out of three sisters, a central character but an essential one for the story. This is what I threw together for her before I started writing...

Demonica Ballentine

The eldest and most volatile of the sisters, Demonica has the power to manipulate the human heart and have them eating out of the palm of her hands effortlessly. Using her gifts as she sees fit, Demonica will stop at nothing in order to please herself. With her flaming red hair and fiery personality, Demonica is the ultimate devil in the flesh. Ever the alluring seductress, in the beginning Demonica is the sister you love to hate, but becomes more amiable toward the end without losing any of her passion.

If you read my entry into the "Bad Boy Blogfest," you were able to get a taste of what Demonica's antics produce. If you haven't read it you can see it here.

So now that I've shared to share yours? When plunging into a new manuscript, where do you start? Do you just dive right in? Or are there others out there like me that have little quirks that help them along? I'd love to hear them.

Happy Friday everyone!


Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I've read lots of posts lately about defining your characters. This one really brought it all together for me. If I chose a photo of my ideal character then I'll have a concrete visual of her that will not change...It will give me some consistancy causing me to know my characters better.

Wonderful post1

Caitlin said...

Man, you put me to shame with your organisational skills Renae!

I usually plot my characters around a quirk - physical or mental, it doesn't matter. For example, Eliana is a revenge-a-holic. So my description would go something like...

After witnessing the murder of her family at the hands of a demon lord, Eliana is powered purely by vengence and anger. She is not a spiteful person, but she will do whatever it takes to get revenge, consequences be damned. Her motto? "You can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs". Armed with ginger hair and a waifer-thin stature, she's the last person you'd pick for a killer. But she's the first you'd only cross once.

Have a great weekend :D

Renae said...

Sharon-I'm glad it was helpful!

Caitlin-I am loving your Eliana the more I hear about her! Great description.

Jessica said...

I have to have a name for my main character and a description of them. I use Gail Carson Levine's character outline in her book Writing Magic and add a few things if I need them. My secondary characters can go with temporary names but it is more difficult until they have a name that I am in love with. And I google names left and right for characters, from meanings, to origin, to history. Hey, I don't want a hero with the name that means demon and a bunch of terrorists with the same name.

Jen said...

Wow I love your character and what a name!!! Your organization rocks and I am going to be putting it to good use for sure!!!

You amaze me!!!

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I just started a new MS and your list is exactly like mine. My characters tend to name themselves though. When I start to write them if the name I started with starts to feel "off" and I'm sure you know what I mean by that, then the name has to changed to fit the rest. I can put up three names and three different characters emerge. But they do tend to name themselves accurately. The rest I plan out and make notes even down to their dominant hand. Well in this MS which hand they use is actually not a "throw away" detail. Now, that's weird! Have a wonderful weekend!

Creepy Query Girl said...

My characters start out with a name and a 'function'. I start the first draft and they say what they gotta say and do what they gotta do but then little by little they start deriving from their 'jobs' and become their own people. Things spring out of their mouths and they react in ways that I'd never anticipated. It's lke i'm getting to know them along with the reader and then, once I get a good handle on their personalities, I go back and flush out the first parts of the book.

Clara said...

I actually start with plot, and the characters start forming as a result of what happens. It´s basically building their reactions after what happens and molding their character for it =)

BTW, u just won an award on my blog! Weeee!

Kristi Helvig said...

I LOVE the name Demonica! Like you, I have to have my MC's name before I start my ms. Usually, the basic story idea, the book title and the MC's name come at about the same time--then I start writing. :)

Kari said...

It's horrible, but I have a tendency towards 2-d characters. I've been trying to work on that lately, but plot is still the driving force in my stories (even though I think characters are perhaps the most important element!). One thing I've tried that really helps, though, is filling out a character profile questionnaire. It asks questions a lot like the ones you mentioned..

Slushpile Slut said...

Oooohhhhh! Demonica sounds like a kick ass character...Love her!! Great job Renae!

I always start with a plot and a strong visual for characters and an inkling as to how I want to mold them into my story.