I do. I can see the confusion, no worries, I’ll ask another way. How do you get to know your characters? Do you interview them in a polite and civilized manner or strap them to a chair and subject them to torture methods that would make any military proud?
Me, I prefer a gentler method, I bio.
I write a biography for each of my important characters, hero, heroine and any best friends or villains. This is something I had always done and believe it or not, thought it was silly, because one, no one else I knew did this and two, no one was going to see the H/h’s family history, whether or not they liked school or if they were bullied on the playground. When I stopped this practice a few years ago, my characters suffered. They didn’t seem as realistic as before.
Imagine my distress when I figured out what had changed. What may have seemed a little over the top, was a key part in my process for character development.
Not only could I see that my characters were lacking so could my CP (critique partner) who is very fond of telling me to “dig deeper.”
So I dug deeper and went back to writing those bios.
Some aspects of the characters may never be revealed to the reader, like knowing why the hero hates lime Jell-O (he was forced to eat a gallon of the stuff on a dare in third grade). But knowing why he has abandonment/trust issues (Mom died when he was twelve) all works into character development and how he interacts with the heroine.
I went searching for the bio I used for Breaking Delia’s Rules and realized it’s in a box somewhere. Miss Delia has been with me a long time, way back when I wrote everything long hand and then typed it out.
Delia-shoulder length black hair, brown eyes, is a sassy, sexy woman. (reminds me of Gabrielle Union) She’s in her mid to late 20’s, a virgin and she has rules for dating. She loves shoes, chocolate and men. She has rules for dating and she’s up front about the rules. Being honest cuts the drama. If a man isn’t around long enough to form an attachment, then she can’t be hurt. Why?
Parents divorced when she was young. Teenage crush broke her heart and the number one reason she won’t commit, so many men, so little time. Men are just marvelous creatures and they should all be sampled and enjoyed.
Her favorite color is blue, orchids are her favorite flower and she’s a buyer for a major department chain. She has two best friends, Shauna and Trisha. Delia has brothers, but no sisters and interacts with her mother who is a bit of a nag.
Wears contacts. Loves Blues, Jazz and R&B
When it comes to her heart she guards it and will do anything to keep it from being broken. At any given time has a roster of ten men. Meets Jace on a cruise.
Some of those details never made it into Breaking Delia’s Rules, but her having rules and being a virgin played into the plot. The hero unwittingly brings her a bouquet of her favorite flower. I don’t think it’s ever explained what their occupations are, but it’s listed. And I just love strong, sassy women who know exactly what they want.
Three things I always put on paper for my characters are name, occupation, and what draws the H/h together.
From there I endeavor to learn as much as I can about the character. A lot of the information I get will vary depending on the length and depth of the story. (Yes, I listen to the voices in my head, probably way too much) Worrying about these details now, before I’ve written the story helps me with my process.
I have one character who no longer likes to be touched and that begs the question of why? What happened? Why does she flinch or shy away from people or keeps them from to invading her personal space? How can the hero overcome this obstacle and gain her trust?
I made a list of things that I toss into the bios, but it can still change as the plot changes, as you learn the characters and their little quirks, you may discover the hero bites his nails when he’s stressed, or chews a toothpick because he quit smoking. Maybe the heroine’s eye and hair color changes because she reminds you of your sister, bff, or the actress who starred in a favorite TV show.
However it comes out, enjoy the journey.
Name, including nickname if any, Sometimes the nickname can play a part of the plot, such as mistaken identity.
Now when I begin a new manuscript I think about my characters and not just their likes and dislikes, but what drives them, what will make them relatable and likable and if they’re not likable in the beginning what redeeming qualities do they have?
If interview techniques don’t work for you, try a bio. It just might be your thing. :-)
When I’m not writing bios for fictional characters, I can be found at my cyber home.
Until next time, Indulge Your Inner Romantic
W. Lynn Chantale resides in southeastern Michigan. Married to her high school sweetheart, they’ve been together for the last twenty years. She has a mad affinity for
milk chocolate, preferably Dove chocolate truffles or the caramel-filled squares (Godiva is acceptable), and plays the bass guitar when the Muse begs for a bit of distraction.
She’s a multi-published author as well as a member of Romance Writers of America as well Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, Passionate Ink and Kiss of Death groups.
Breaking Delia’s Rules
Delia has just three rules for dating. First, a man should never assume he’s the only one. Second, he must stick to his scheduled day and time. Third—and most important—no sex. Enforcing the rules has never been a problem until she meets the hottie from the pool.
Jace has only five days to make every moment count. The more time he spends with Delia, the more he realizes she may be The One. With the clock ticking, he realizes there is only one course of action left to take if he wants Delia’s heart. Can he convince Delia that rules are meant to be broken?