Finding Your Characters, Part 2

2012-Feb-17 -> from the 29-days-of-fantasy department Tags:

Hello, and welcome again to 29 Days of Fantasy. Today I bring you the second and final installment of Marie Borthwick's fantastic article on Finding Your Characters.

If you haven't read the first part, you can find it here: Finding Your Characters, Part 1

Books, DUH!

This should be an obvious source of inspiration - but like using people it can and often does have inherent dangers.

  • if you use fiction novels (published or unpublished) for inspiration tread carefully; while there are some things that can be "borrowed" (some themes, types of characters, some scenes, etc.) others should not (carbon copies of characters, use of scenes unique to a given story and/or author, names unique to a given story and/or author)

  • reference books are awesome! I'm not talking about those encyclopedias that are gathering dust on your grandma's shelf, I'm talking about fantasy specific reference books.

    • "The Element Encyclopedia of ..." is a series of books that are organized in a concise and are easy to read; best of all they will also lead you to other books that may be helpful on a given subject/topic/etc. they discuss. There are a total of 10 (12 if you count 2 earlier editions of 2 of the books). You can start your search for these boos by googling "the element encyclopedia of", they include volumes on: witchcraft, spells (has 2 editions), signs/symbols, psychic world, vampires, dreams (has 2 editions), ghosts/hauntings, birthdays, magical creatures and secret societies.

    • "The Dictionary of Mythology" which covers many aspects of mythology as it plays out in several different parts of the world and among countless cultures

    • "Write Great Fiction: Character, Emotion & Viewpoint" I have this book (and the other four in the series), it is chock full of goodies when it comes to developing characters. It walks you through theories/information at a comfortable and detailed pace, then you complete exercises based on that information. What is great about this book and others, is if you start with chapter 1 (exercise one) and go all the way to the end you are likely to have a completed character if not one well on its way!

    • magazines and newspapers, while they are not books are they often crammed with inspiration tidbits. I often cut articles or pictures out and create collage that I feel I may be able to use in creating my character - if you do this, please be sure it's a magazine/newspaper you can cut up! (don't go taking something from the doctor's office or cut up what you check out from the library).

When it comes to books, I prefer hardbound books (paper or hardcover) that I can stuff on to a shelf; I love to be able to turn the page and call me a nerd but I just love the smell of a new (or well kept) book. That's not to say I don't see the advantages of reference books in "eBook" form; I myself own a Kindle Fire and love the ease of carrying an unlimited number of books with me - it's perfect when your traveling and can't lug all those thick and heavy books with you.

Other Stuff

Don't ignore the world around you! Sometimes we writers have a tendency to hole up in our caves hunched over keyboards and notebooks and forget that there is a world that exists beyond the one we are trying to create. Just like the real people around you are a great source of inspiration, so is the rest of the real world. Try a few of these things:

  • take a small notebook and pencil with you wherever you go - write down names, places, anything that makes you think for more than a second; you'll end up with a reference book that is unique to you - something you can go back to time and time again as you add new information.

  • people watch - go to a mall or a busy public place and just people watch. Your a writer, so I know you have wondered about the people around you. Sit on a bench (be as inconspicuous as possible so you don't creep people out) and just absorb the people around you - write down simple words that pop into your head or brief sentences, when you get home later you can write out longer descriptions/short blurbs about the person.

  • pictures - have you heard of flash fiction? It's this awesome thing where you take a word/subject/and or picture and try to write a short (usually a 100 words, but no more than a few hundred). The idea is just to let the words flow from you; if your interested a friend of mine (Madison Woods) has a good program going called "Friday Fictioneers"; the best thing about programs like hers (there are others so find one that fits you) is that they encourage writing and publication of the shorts (as long as your comfortable) and you can gain some valuable feedback plus make a few friends! While some of these are not character specific - they made be the spark (or needed distraction) you are looking for.

  • share - sounds silly, so simple, easier said than done tho isn't it? Some of us don't want to share our writing unless it's really polished, unless it's perfect. We have this fear that people will think our idea's are horrible... face it sometimes they are, that's why we are in such a funk sometimes. But no horrible idea is without some redeeming quality; share what you have (or a an excerpt) and explain the problem you are having with a friend (a fellow writer is all the better) and ask them for their opinion. Remember, what they say is not likely a mean-spirited thing if it ends up being negative - just a constructive critique that if you are completely honest with yourself, you sorely need. A while back I was having trouble with a character and a friend (K. Victoria Smith) helped me out after I shared my problem with her.

  • join a group - there are an abundance of them on facebook and twitter... just search! Find the one that fits you and the people in it will be an invaluable source of direction and support when it comes to your writing - the good, the bad and even the ugly.

The last bit of advice I can give you when it comes to finding your characters, probably the most important, is to step away when you hit that character block or get frustrated. I know this seems like it's the exact last thing you want to do, but sometimes whether you want to or not you need to. We writers are a different breed, many admire us but few understand how our minds work. We need to remember that we are people and we need breaks, as hard as it is to pull away from that working story or novel it is often the one thing we should do. Putting your draft aside and coming back to it a few days, a week, or even a month later will often clear the haze you were in and let you see your work with fresher eyes.

Thank you so much for visiting and checking out Marie's article. And thank you Marie for taking part in this fantastic month-long blog event.

Tomorrow I bring you a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Come back again as 29 Days continues!


Thanks for reading!

I'm always interested in hearing what you have to say. Contact Me, I'd love to hear from you.

Don't forget to join in on the conversation in the comments section below.

1 Comment:


By Natalie Star on Fri 17 Feb 2012 06:47:03 am [ Reply ] Great info! Most of this should be common sense to us writer type's, but sometimes we forget the most simple options are right there in front of us. Thank you.

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