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Bob Nailor




Know Your Character

Writers are constantly bombarded with character descriptions and how to define them so the writer has a deep understanding of the cast within the story. You need to know how tall or short, fat or skinny, the color their eyes and hair and oh, so many other details.

But …

Do you really know your character? Yes, you might be able to pick them out of a lineup or a mob scene, but, do you know the character? It is nice to know if he is a carpenter, baker, banker or candlestick maker. Again, I ask, do you know your character?

Will your character lie? In fact, what would he do if caught in a lie? Will your character confess to the lie or will s/he build on the lie to continue the web of deceit?

What is your character's most defining strength? Is this person willing to go the extra distance to make amends? Or will they be snippy and deny their intentions?

What emotional connection does your character have with his or her parents. Is there a strong bond? What will your character do when there is a loss of a parent?

Can your character handle change, either internal or external? What will they do when placed in a situation that is the norm for them? In fact, what will your character do when they realize that they are the cause of the situation and only they can change or continue the status quo?

Consider your characters friends? Does s/he need friends or is s/he a loner? What will your character do when forced into a situation where s/he must consider a partner, buddy or another person to share the work? Or their life?

Is your character a planner? If so, what plan does s/he have for the next hour, day, week? If not, how does your character handle the day to day activities. Is s/he a floater, follower, or leader?

If your character is born of privilege and is suddenly poor or if your character is a low commoner who suddenly finds extreme wealth, how will they react?

Your character can be afraid of snakes, flying, or even a clown, but what really takes your character's breath away. What does s/he fear so much, they begin to sweat at the mere thought of it? What gives them chills up and down the spine while dropping a bottomless pit in their stomach?

How well do you know your characters? What will they say when you say "I love you" and await their response?

Learn to know your character, not just by various physical traits or vocational descriptions but by the very things that make them real and have an existence. Know their sociological and psychological aspects.




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~ COMMENTS ~

Nichole Hall
2014-12-08
I agree that knowing your character is more than just the superficial things in life that define them (job, favorite foods, car they drive, etc...). I love Susan Mae Warren's book From the Inside Out. It is about discovering those spiritual, emotional parts of your character that really help you build someone who has that internal struggle we all can relate to.
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Bob Nailor
2014-12-08
I may have to check out the book. I'm really into character development in my books. Okay, I wasn't too much when I started my writing but soon learned it was creatively important.
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Scott Bury
2014-12-08
Excellent advice. I have to admit, there are some minor characters of my own that I have not taken the time to get to know very well. I like the suggestion to consider whether they'd lie.
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Bob Nailor
2014-12-08
Thanks. I was in such a rush last night to write this tip that I forgot to add a very critical aspect - What will your character do behind closed doors that they don't want anyone to know? Yes, figuring out if a character can lie is one thing, but the deep, dark secret - what one will do when alone and nobody is to find out - that's a characteristic you don't normally find in regular description details. {insert evil laugh here}
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Lisa Jey Davis
2014-12-08
Once more... and with feeling this time: I am so glad I haven't yet jumped into fiction! LOL!!! Of course I know my character, because she is ME! HAHA! Great post though Bob!
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Bob Nailor
2014-12-08
Ah, but do you reveal the you that you know or the you that you want us to know? Who is that Lisa behind the makeup? LOL.
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Tamie Dearen
2014-12-08
Thanks for another great post with writing advice. I've bookmarked your blog for a reference because of all these great tips!
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Bob Nailor
2014-12-08
You can have these sent to you each week to save and/or print out. Just join my mailing list. There is no spam except what I send and the names have yet to be up for sale and I don't see any future chance of that happening. Last year my readers received only 52 emails, one each week with a tip. I have yet to use it as a sales marketing gimmick and it has a cancel link that is valid. The cost is in a very reasonable price range: free. Just something to think about, Tamie.
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Tara
2014-12-08
I love exploring my characters….these are all great questions to ponder.
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Elyse Salpeter
2014-12-09
I think it's incredibly important to know your characters, especially if you plan to do a series. You need to know everything about them, how they feel, everything from do they get scared in scary movies, to how do they feel about a childhood nickname they were given. For one of my series, I have a 25+ page character chart about all the characters and I found it really helps to go back and read the nuances about each one and add and change things as the series develops. Nice Post.
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James Prescott
2014-12-10
Another great tip Bob, as ever. Thanks.
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