Sunday, March 17, 2013

Characters... Who Are You?

I'm sure you've read books where the characters just don't seem like themselves after a while... an extroverted character becomes shy... an unattached character suddenly becomes sentimental. All out of place right? Unless the character undergoes a learning experience, but that's not what we're talking about right now. (another out of place thing)

So how does a writer keep their characters interesting, but consistant? No Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde cases...? Hmm, seems like a challenge, especially if you walk away from the story for a while and then come back to it later. Somehow, the character just "transforms" in your head. As a writer, I understand this pretty darn well. It's not uncommon. So, since this is such a COMMON problem, let's start with a simple way to solve it.

Now, you don't have to write this down if you don't want to, but if you have that personality type that just HAS TO maintain some semblance or organization, you might want to.

Start here...

  1. what is your character's FULL NAME... first, middle, last. A birthday might be good too. you'll want to remember how old they are. 
  2. Now, what does he/she want to attain by the end of the story? (goal)
  3. Why do they want to attain this goal? (motivation)
  4. What will get in their way of attaining this goal? (conflict)
  5. Now, all character's have goals that are a little more personal - more like, their emotional goals that they might be willing to sacrifice, even if they want it more than anything. An "Interior" goal. You might call the afore mentioned goal the "exterior" goal... the goal everyone else knows about. 
  6. Now, why do they want their "interior" goal? (motivation)
  7. What will get in their way of attaining THIS goal? (conflict)

Simple enough, right? Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Every Character should have a Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. It's pertinent to who they are and it will drive the plot of the story...

Say Jessie Jones is fourteen years old. She wants to know who her birth mother is. She wants to know because she keeps getting passed from foster home to foster home and she just wants somebody to take a genuine interest in her. The fact that the records of the woman who gave her up, will keep Jessie struggling to find the answer. Deep down, Jessie just wants to be loved. She wants this because no one has ever loved her. Jessie will have a hard time finding love because she doesn't trust people.

Not too bad, right? Just a simple paragraph that tells you all about Jessie. From here, Jessie's story could roam all over the place, but as long as she is continually trying to find her mother and love, she should stay pretty consistant. She will be driven by her goals and will have to grow and learn because of the obstacles that get in her way, and eventually, she WILL find what she needs.

If you really worry for your characters, try creating a character chart that lists, not only their goals, motivations, and conflicts, but their family members, pets, hometowns, appearance (eyes, hair, height), friends, spouses? or Children? or Love interests?

Characters often have a mind of their own, they SHOULD grow and change as the story progresses. They NEED to. Growth is crucial. But the character always needs a Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. As long as these things are kept in mind while you are writing, your characters shouldn't suffer from any Dr. Jeckle or Mr. Hyde problems.

Have fun =)

No comments:

Post a Comment