Saturday, November 3, 2012

Character chart

I’m going for NaNoWriMo and it’s kind of exciting. Never done it before and almost didn’t do it again this year. I know I will not accomplish the goal. There are too many things going on, still. Plus I signed up for Cheryl Klein’s plot class. That’s an all-day Saturday in the middle of the month and the lady has a labor-intensive pre-class assignment. Plus there’s election night and Thanksgiving. And do I have my new project planned out enough to go? Doesn’t matter. I’m trying NaNoWriMo anyway.

I’ve got the write-it-in-30-days storyline roughed out in mind. Now I need characters to carry the story. Middle grade boys need something to read so there’s my MC. He’s got to have a dog; every kid needs a dog. It’s set suburban modern day so he has access to technology, social media, 5th grader mode of transportation, etc. So now who is my kid?

Charlotte Dillon at has a very nice site to help you get to know your main character. Besides sage advice on the people in your story her site has some great links, though some of them are no longer active. She also offers a character chart. You can cut and paste into a Word document then fill in. The chart is designed for adult characters, but children’s writers can pull from it as well. The exercise is obvious for your main character, but the antagonist and other major players deserve a chart of their own.

Dillon starts with the basics: character’s name, nickname, age, physical features, family and friends, etc. She suggests tag lines or gestures such as “holy moly” or cracking of knuckles so when those things are done or said, the reader knows whom. Dillon goes deeper with what she calls the character’s character. What are their good points or bad, their attitude and temperament, their weaknesses and phobias? What do they want, what’s their motivation, and how driven are they to achieve it?

Similar to Kathleen Duey, Dillon has questions to ask your character to get to the heart of them. They include:
-If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
-What do you do when you are angry?
-Do you have a secret passion? What? Why is it a passion? And why is it a secret?
-Deep down, what does you really think of yourself? Are you fair, moral, honest, etc.?
-How do you deal with anger, sadness, external/internal conflict, change, loss, jealousy, hurt, etc.? Why?
-And my personal favorite: If you had a weakness for one of the seven deadly sins, which one would it be and why? (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth)

It’s still early in NaNoWriMo. It may be worth your time to get to know your characters before you get too far into it.


Jess said...

Great questions! I need to use those for my characters. Unfortunately, I'm not doing NaNo this year. It was a hard choice since I'd done it for the past two.

Good luck! You'll have a lot of fun :)

Julie Daines said...

I think all these questions are great and it's important to get to know your characters well. But for me, no matter how many questions I answer about them, I never seem to get to know them fully until I WRITE THEIR STORY.

That's why the revising part is so important to me! Good luck with NaNo. I'm doing it again for the third year in a row.