So I’ve been living with these people for two years now, but do I really know my characters?
I believe I should know them, but I’m not sure I do. Are they real? Are they kid-like? Do they stay true to themselves? Are they complex enough?
Kathleen Duey has a few ideas about characters. She taught at WIFYR a couple of years ago. I debated joining her workshop but didn’t. I was totally pleased to be with Claudia Mills. I did attend one of Kathleen’s afternoon sessions. Then I went to a second one. She’s an amazing writer and so willing to share her expertise of the craft.
Kathleen’s suggests interviewing your characters, to ask them questions.
Back then, I had just found my characters and her questions helped me locate them. As I put the finishing touches on the revision, I recently revisited those questions and am asking them again. It is interesting to see how my characters have grown. So it is a good exercise to do no matter what stage your project is in.
Kathleen says to ask your MC things like what do they want most in life and what is in the way of them getting it? You can ask questions in general or you can ask the characters directly. For example, why do you want to be in my book? Can my story live without you?
On her Throwing Up Words blog, Carol Lynch Williams also had some questions that you could ask your characters. Why are you the main character of my story? What if I were to make one of the other ones the main character and you a minor character? Carol lists some questions you can ask yourself about them: Are their actions coming naturally out of the story or are you making things happen the way you think they should because you thought you had an end in mind and the book has changed directions? (That last one is a thinker.) Why does your character say what she says? Is this her? Or is this you? Carol says to make her real, not an older person. This is especially true if you’re writing children’s fiction. Other questions to ask: What made your character do what she just did? Was that natural to the story or are you forcing things around?
Dr. Suzanna Henshon suggests asking how the main character’s personality impacts the plot. How do the plot and the main characters conjoin?
Hopefully the main people in my story improve, as does the story itself.