How to Write a Novel in Six Months, Week 4: Sketching Characters
I have to admit, this isn't my favorite week. For whatever reason, I have always been resistant to the idea of creating detailed character sketches. Even though I know it'll help, I still don't like to do it. Here are my tricks for getting characters out of my head and onto the page.
Develop Your Protagonist First
Part of the problem I've had writing fiction is the idea that I have to ‘make everything up'. What I learned from Christopher Vogler's Writer's Journey (told you it was my favorite!) was that all the other characters in your novel really only exist to illuminate some aspect of your lead's character, usually by posing or creating conflict or just by having different traits.
That perspective makes things a lot easier. I already knew the main story I wanted to tell and had a pretty good idea of who my main character was. Now all I had to do was populate the other roles in the story with different types of people.
Creating Supporting Characters
While there is some good advice about different roles characters play in Writer's Journey, for the details of personality types I looked to 45 Master Characters, by Victoria Schmidt. I also used Elizabeth George's Write Away for guidance and inspiration. You can really go about creating characters any way you like and there are a lot of different ways to approach it. As I mentioned, this isn't my favorite thing to do.
I got myself to do it by starting to type out Schmidt's descriptions of whatever archetype I had chose for a particular character. I substituted her generic title for my character's name and just started imagining them. Soon I would go ‘off book' and start making things up that went along with the characterization of the mythic archetype.
Characterization Leads to Plot
You can argue all you want about what comes first, characterization or plot, but for me it's a collaborative process. You have an idea for a story and maybe someone who's living it. Then you work out some major plot points and work out a few more characters. Once you get to the stage of fleshing out characters, you learn details about their lives that will affect the plot. And we haven't even started ‘writing' yet!
Although I at first resisted formal character sketches, I can't imagine how you'd produce a novel length work without them. If you can keep it all in your head, you've got more compartments than I do.
Please share your own tips for creating characters in the comments!
Week 6, OutliningWeek 7, Detail Scene Beats
Week 8, Writing the Synopsis
Weeks 9 - 18, Drafting Updates
Week 19, Sanity Break
Week 20, Transitions
Week 21, Reading the Draft
Weeks 22 - 24 First Revision
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