Monday, February 21, 2011

Character Development 101 Part Uno: 100 Things

Are you having trouble developing a character?  Do any of your current ones seem flat and one-dimensional?  I might be able to help you with that.

We’ve all read a book with that character who is unlikable, unbelievable, and has no point whatsoever in the story.  You wish the antagonist would just come along and chuck them in a lake.  You don’t want your characters to be like that, but sometimes it’s so hard to make them come to life.  Here’s an activity to work on that.

It’s simple, really.  All you do is make a list of 100 declarative sentences about whatever character is giving you trouble.  Sounds easy, right?  Just wait until you try it.

A declarative sentence is a sentence that states something about your character.  These can be simple, like stating hair color or height.  Or they can be more complex, like a character’s greatest fear.  Here are some examples that I did for Davi, my main character in Secrets of the Legend Chaser.

  1. Davi has brown hair.
  2. Davi has blue eyes.
  3. Davi is left-handed.

Those are all very simple and straightforward.  You’ll have no trouble with those.  Now you need to dig a little deeper.

  1. Davi gets really sarcastic when he’s afraid.
  2. Davi hates conflict with others.
  3. Davi always had a lack of close childhood friends.
  4. Davi is a pathetic archer.

Get it?  Good.  I’ve found that this activity really helps you get to know a character, as well as discover things you never knew about them.  Who would’ve known that Davi hates weddings?

Before you get too far, you should know that this activity has a few ground rules:

Don’t spend more than seven sentences on physical appearance.
If one of yours is Yealdidfngklas’dlkd has brown hair, don’t go on to say Yealdidfngklas’dlkd’s hair is very long.  That’s cheating.  Combine all related sentences.
If a sentence takes up more than one line in your notebook/word processer, it’s too detailed.  Or your font is too big, I guess…
You’re allowed one sentence stating that your character is awesome.  But only one, and rephrasing anything is cheating.

But, Annie, that means I have to type all the numbers from one to a hundred!  Guess I won’t do it, then.  Nope, sorry.  Guess what?  There’s this thing called autoformat.  It’ll do that for you after two or so lines.  Nice try.

The first ten should be a breeze.  After twenty you’ll be thinking that this is way too easy to be any help.  You should be able to get to about fifty without too much trouble.  At eighty you’ll want to slam your head into a wall.  At ninety you’ll consider giving up.  At ninety-five you’ll walk away, because you have something else you need to do anyway.  Trust me, you’ll get to a hundred.  You can do it!

Hopefully you’ll learn a lot about your characters.  Some of it is completely random and will never make its way into your book.  I don’t think the fact that Davi hates it when people stroke their beards thoughtfully will have a use in my book.  But some of it you’ll end up using, and then you’ll be grateful you did it.

If you try this, I’d love it if you told us how it went in the comments!

PS: I dare you to use the name Yealdidfngklas’dlkd in your story.

PPS: Uno means one in Spanish.

2 comments:

  1. Hey,
    That's awesome advice. I'm having a bit of a problem with character development ... so I definitely like this post.

    PPPS: Yealdidfngklas'dlkd is just too good of a name to pass ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love it! It's so simple, I actually enjoy doing it versus the strict character development forms and such. I've only tried to on my MC which was fairly easy given all that I knew about her, but I have a few others that promise not to be as simple. :] It takes a lot longer than I expected, thanks for the post! My writing has definitely been helped!

    Thanks and keep writing!

    ReplyDelete

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