I once did an event with an author many years ago. A student asked about plot and I said, “Your character makes decisions and choices. And those choices move the plot forward.”
“Not always,” my co-teacher said. “Not in a plot driven novel.”
I had read this person’s work and while I found it okay, I wasn’t grabbed by the characters. They weren’t interesting. They were flat and, even in exciting moments, I could close the novel because I just didn’t care.
Like in real life, I want to know the people of books so if they fail or lose something or go through a hard event, I am rooting for them. If they get that kiss or lose that boy or find their mother or lose the kingdom, I want to laugh or weep for them.
Knowing your characters helps you be able to write a well-rounded character. Even if all the details don’t show up on the page.
Here are a few things to ponder.
- Why is this the right character for this novel?
- Make your antagonist the lead of the book. What happens to the story?
- How are your main character and the antagonist the same?
- What are the most important things (people) to your main character?
- To the antagonist?
- Morally, how is your main character different than other people in the novel?
- How are they the same?
- Every character should have a truth. What are the truths of your characters?
- Every character should have a want. What are the wants of the characters in your book?
- How is your character’s wants pro or con to her moral fiber?
- Finding out you are more like your mother than you had hoped may be a negative for you. Who is your character similar to? How does this help or hinder who she is?
- If you have to write a song for your character, using the tune to Imagine Dragon’s THUNDER, what would the words be?
- Everyone has secrets. I have secrets no one knows unless they were somehow involved in specific incidents in my life. What are your MC’s secrets? How does this motivate her? Change her? Influence her decision making?
- Your character has to leave, now. What does she take with her?
- Zombies are coming. Your character cannot get her invalid father out of the house and must run for her life. What does she tell him before she closes the door?
- What minor details (favorite color, favorite treat, favorite shirt etc) does your character show in your book already?
- If your character had ten adjectives to describe herself what would she say?
- What would you say?
Answer these questions–and make up your own and share them–for all the major players in your writing. And if you like these kinds of questions, let me know and I’ll come up with a few more.