Is there a danger in knowing your characters TOO well? (108 Character Development Questions)

Know your characters! But not so much that they don't surprise you anymore.The general advice on character development is to KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS!!!! Know everything about them – their likes, dislikes, fears, nightmares, loves, passions, favourite colour, favourite food, whether they’re a secret chocoholic or a vegan with a burger fetish. Know it ALL!

But as I’m writing the second draft of my novel a few surprises are sneaking in. My character is behaving differently and doing things I don’t expect. I like it. His thoughts, actions and responses make sense. But they’re still unexpected. So, I had to ask, do I not my character well enough?

Then I thought about my very best friends and more important, my husband of 20 years! He still surprises me! Does things I don’t expect. Behaves in ways that make me go “eh!?”. I like that too.

So maybe it’s not realistic to know our characters so well that they can’t surprise us any more. Maybe we should know them just about as well as we know our best friends. That way, when their story takes twists and turns, we don’t have to force a solution, we can leave it to our characters, stand back a little, and see what they’ll do.

Happy writing today. I hope your characters freak you out just a bit!

P.S. In case you want to go all out, below is a document with 108 questions you can ask your characters (editable .doc and .pdf). If they have any sense, they tell you to stop being nosy and won’t answer you! But it might nudge them out of their cocoons if they’re shy.

– 108 Questions to ask your characters (editable .doc)
– 108 Questions to ask characters (.pdf)

Finding your literary soul mate

Find your literary soul mateAs a writer, finding your literary soul mate will most likely be a subject as close to your heart as the blood that runs through it.

There are a few ways you can approach what you write. You can make up a character and invent a bunch of different, varied and brilliant stories. That’s wonderful. Or, you can take the time and make the effort to find your literary soul mate.

Agatha Christie has Miss Marple and Poirot. Jeff Lindsay has Dexter. Lee Child has Jack Reacher. Author Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes. Shakespeare has Hamlet (and a few others…).

The difference between these characters and others we forget the moment we read the last words on the page? These ones are genuine. They have depth and a kind of reality and makes us believe the story they’re living no matter how insane.

I’m willing to bet that all the best books you’ve read have characters that you remember. You will most likely not recall all the details of their story, but you’ll remember them. You’ll know their height, their moods, their look, their feel, their smell, their attitude, how they walk, what they eat, what they like, what they don’t like, what they will and won’t do, how far they can be pushed, what their breaking point is and what is likely to happen when they reach it.

As a READER you know these things even if they aren’t explicitly detailed in the books.

The great thing with these literary soul mates is that authors can put them into just about any situation they choose because they’re so well known and understood that their responses, no matter what the crisis, will be true. They never let us down. It’s like the author has stepped out of the way and the character has taken on their own life.

Here’s my thinking on the subject of finding your literary soul mate

There’s a literary soul mate (or more than one if you keep looking) for every dedicated writer. A character that will come back again and again and again. A character that no other author but you can write. It’s a character that feels as much a part of the you as your own liver.

You’ll know when you’ve found your literary soul mate because it feels like coming home. The character makes sense to you. You see them as an entire person, not a list of attributes and pivotal moments. That character will wake you in the morning, shadow you through the day and fall asleep with you at night. Any other character will feel like a cardboard cutout compared. You will love this character and want to spend time with them. You’ll want to put them through hell just to see how they save themselves. For them, you’ll want to be the best writer you can be. They’ll demand it. When your writing stumbles, they’ll tell you you’re being an idiot and get  you back on track. They will take the story over.

The best series are led by literary soul mates. The reader knows that, so they come back for more when the next book comes out.

So how you find your literary soul mate? How do you find the character you want to spend hours and days, months and years of your life with?

STEP ONE: Get out the way.
STEP TWO: Don’t try too hard.
STEP THREE: Shut up.

They’ll speak to you when you’re ready.

Happy hunting.

For character development on steroids, put your character through a personality test!

Dig deep into your character's mindNever entered my mind to do this! I like it! Seriously, try it out… Put your characters through a personality test.

Below is a list of a few of the free personality tests you’ll find online. You can pay for a really thorough test, but for a quick and dirty one, these work fine.

I tried out the MBTI test (MMDI and Jung) because I know a bit about that already. When I read the results I was stunned at how clearly my main character stood out. I was also able to see why some scenes didn’t work. It just gives you a totally different insight into your story world.

Now, you might think that you know your characters really well, and you probably do. But take a moment to think about your best friend or even yourself. If you’ve ever taken one of these test, or read one your friend has taken, you’ll know that there are insights into your inner world that make you go “Oohhhhhh, that’s right… never thought of it that way, but that’s true!”

Character development personality tests…

Here are the tests – there are dozens more if you dig around. The first link (Similar Minds) has a whole list you can explore. Some of them a bit odd, I grant you:

– Similar Minds: This one has a whole bunch of different test on one page. I haven’t explored them all yet.
– MMDI: Very similar to Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I’ve tried this one. You can pay for the full report.
– Jung test: This is also an MBTI test. It doesn’t give you as much information as MMDI but you can take the test, get the 4 letters you need (you’ll know them when you see them), then pick up a book on MBTI and read up on it.

Happy digging around your head today!

If you want to meet your characters, you need to BE QUIET

Give your characters space and time to show themselves. Be quiet. Still your crazy mind.
Give your characters space and time to show themselves. Be quiet. Still your crazy mind!

Have you ever tried to build a story line, create a character or run through dialogue in your mind only to be defeated by the cacophony in your head?

Arguments you would have won if you’d just said (fill the gap), things to do, plans to make, reminders to be reminded of, insults aimed at yourself or the person next to you…

The definition of MESS is matter out of place. The same definition can be applied to NOISE  as sounds out of place.

If you want to build a story line or create a character or run through dialogue in your mind, you need to clear out the noise. You need to still your mind. You need to shut up. You need to BE QUIET.

The brightest creations come out of stillness. It’s where What’s Possible lives. Connections are made in its silence. Worlds are created there.

Your characters are shy. Few will stand up to the chaos that usually fills your mind. Give them the time and space they need to come out and be discovered.

Happy writing today.
Tina K