So Friday's blogfest was a BLAST. I'd really like to thank Alex Cavanaugh, Elana Johnson, and Jennifer Daiker for a FABULOUS topic and some very interesting takes on creating characters... SO interesting in fact, that I am not willing to drop it just yet.
What struck me is how different we all saw it. Every person looked at it differently, but there are some CATEGORIES of approaches that I thought might be useful.
I noticed that some people thought of their characters first (sometimes fully formed) and THEN thought of something for them to do... (or something that would happen to them). Other people couldn't do character until they knew the STORY.
People who really needed to have the characters down did clever things like interviewing them, writing full profiles, depending on psychological 'types'. (I was the only person who assigned them punctuation, but I also tend to do that after the fact, and honestly.. I've never DONE that *shifty*).
Other people needed characters to develop more organically—within the context of the story.
As with most things, I am a bendy sort... I need to know the characters before I write the book, or they won't behave consistently, but I can't 'know them' without writing them IN ACTION. I start with a couple scenes... sometimes those scenes survive, sometimes they don't.
Some people had qualities they insisted on: Smart, brave, flawed, unattractive (LOVE this one, though it's an exaggeration to how it was presented... but I am also in the 'can't be too beautiful' camp—pretty people annoy me). It's also nice if characters are capable or learning and growing.
And then there was the school (of which I subscribe) that any character (with the probable exception of Bella Swann) COULD be written to be compelling. It is in the HOW. The reader needs to be made to CARE. That doesn't require LIKING the character, it just requires making the reader HAVE TO KNOW what happens.
There are a number of ways to make readers care about the character. I saw blogs about giving them a history, relationship... think, for instance, of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games. She isn't necessarily LIKEABLE, but she takes care of her family when her father dies, she then volunteers herself for the 'games' so her sister doesn't have to go. Those two things buy a lot of leeway from the reader for this prickly character.
Even a pedophile like Humbert Humbert is compelling in Nabakov's capable words. THAT one, we are let inside his head and participate in his delusions—the 'minx-like' behavior he can't resist.
But I think my real question of interest, is whether this character creation thing is a little like the plotters versus pantsers thing... I think it MIGHT be. Do plotters need their characters sheet with all their traits, likes, quirks, where the pantsers allow the characters to develop with the story? Does this ring true to you?
I am in the middle on both fronts. I don't OUTLINE, but I do TIMELINE (and follow with about 60% success). And characters sort of COME to me, but before I DO THAT full timeline, I have written the scenes and have a pretty good idea.
So that's my question: What do you do on EACH?
[Editing Note: I am making good progress in whipping the WiP into shape, but MAN is this a slow process. I've got all my planned edits marked in some form or other, but going through and getting them in is big... I'd say I'm maybe a quarter done with that part...]