Tag Archive | character profiles

What To Do If Your Characters Won’t Talk To You

Or do they talk too much?

 

Is there a “right” way to communicate with your characters?

I pondered this question late one night when I couldn’t sleep (the places a mind can go at three in the morning!). The topic was on my mind due to a Facebook discussion, where an author was concerned she had a problem because her characters wouldn’t “talk” to her. She had heard other authors say they had regular and vivid conversations with their characters, and she felt left out because she didn’t.

Many in the responses assured her she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Several authors, myself included, said their characters don’t communicate with them like disembodied entities. The consensus at the end of the thread was, like most aspects of writing, there’s no one right way. How your characters communicate with you is part of your writing process, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Whose Head Is This?

Personally, my characters don’t talk to me, they talk through me. I do a rough character sketch before I begin writing a story, but the characters, whether main or secondary, reveal themselves to me as I write. They don’t get inside my head, but I get inside theirs. When I am writing in a character’s POV, I am that character. I inhabit their mind, see what they see, feel what they feel. I think that is why I am able to write in deep point of view, and also why I can’t stand “head hopping” (alternating POV in the same scene). It may also be why I write slower than some writers, because it takes time to get into, and out of, character. The only downside is, when I write from the POV of an antagonist who is psychologically messed up, or a villain type, it sometimes creeps me out and takes a while to recover!

My reviews have cited “a wealth of character development” and now I know why. I didn’t even realize that I was, so to speak, “inhabiting” my characters until I thought about how other authors communicate with theirs.

Characters Are Crucial

Characters and their motivations, quirks, and personalities are extremely important in fiction. No matter what genre you write, character development is what makes the reader care about what is happening plot-wise. Some genres have more emphasis on character development and interaction than others, but knowing your characters is crucial for all fiction.
So, what can you do if they aren’t jabbering?

Here’s a few tips I have heard about getting to know your characters:

Write a character sketch– it can be a few paragraphs, a list, or a dossier. Some writers swear by this, and it helps them to know what food the character likes, what astrological sign they are, what happened to them when they were six, etc. Much of the information may not be used in the story, but serves as background, which helps to develop the character’s motivations and quirks.

Interview your characters– pretend you’re a journalist or a psychologist, and grill them with questions. Many writers find this helps when they are stuck, to ask the character what he/she wants to happen.

Try deep POV– even if you are not writing your story that way. Really get inside your character’s mind, and figure out why they behave the way they do. Writing a scene or two, which you may or may not use, can trigger you to discover aspects about that character you were missing.

Map it out– use a structural template, such as Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, or something similar, to map out your character’s development and arc. Sometimes breaking it down like that can trigger all sorts of ideas and provide insight into the character’s psychological makeup.

Brainstorm- talk it out with another author or a trusted beta reader. If you feel disconnected or blocked from a character, talking it through with someone else can also trigger understanding. Sometimes just voicing your concerns out loud can make the character more “real” and you can gain insight into what they want or should do in your story.

The bottom line is, there is no one right way to communicate with your characters. Whether they are noisy or quiet, how they get the story through you and onto the page is highly personal and individual. While it is a good idea to try new methods, don’t compare yourself to other writers. If your way makes you comfortable and works for you, bravo!

Do your characters talk to you? What’s your process for finding out what they are all about?

Advertisements

All About Chemistry- Do Your Hormones Determine Who You Love?

Let's get physical....

Let’s get physical….

Is sexual attraction and falling in love due to our body chemistry more than anything else? I read a book a few years ago that answered that question in an interesting, and plausible way. Entitled, Why Him? Why Her?, written by Helen Fisher, this book explained how and why certain hormones affect our personalities and our attraction to others.

I found it interesting because it was based on science, and was surprised to find it startlingly accurate. The author, Helen Fisher, PhD, is a Biological Anthropologist, and according to the bio on her website:

“She is a Senior Research Fellow, The Kinsey Institute, member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Internet dating site Match.com. She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality style shapes who you are and who you love.”

So, Ms. Fisher knows a thing or two about her subject matter. She breaks the personality types into four distinct groups, based on hormones. While we all have many hormones in our bodies, most people have more of one hormone than the others, which influences their desires, motivations, and behavior, because the body seeks the “reward” of their particular influencing hormone. The four groups and their hormone of influence are:

Explorers– Dopamine, the hormone of sensation seeking

Builders– Serotonin, the Calming hormone

Directors– Testosterone, the Systemizing hormone

Negotiators– Estrogen, the hormone of Connectivity

All four types are explained in detail- what motivates them, how they interact with others, even negative traits. There is a personality test of multiple choice questions you can take to determine which you are, and most people fall into two personality types, with one being more prominent than the other. For example, you might be an Explorer/Director, and your mate may be a Builder/Negotiator.

The book goes into detail about how the various types might clash, and how to work through it. It helped me to understand, in retrospect, some of the difficulties I had with my first husband who was most definitely an Explorer type, while I was more of a Negotiator. He was constantly seeking adventure and the next new thing, while I was more introspective and wanted a safe place to create. He thrived on being under pressure, where I sought to avoid disruption. Turns out we were hardwired that way.

I thought this concept might be useful to writers in regard to character development. One of the reasons I have always loved reading and writing is my interest in human nature. What causes people to do the things they do? What motivates one person is a deterrent for another. I enjoy finding possible explanations, especially when they are based on measurable science.

book

If you have a chance, take a look at Ms. Fisher’s website and/or her books. The books are easy to understand, with case studies and plenty of information for follow up, if you choose to learn more.

It has been said you can’t really choose who you fall in love with. Your body really is pre-programmed to seek out certain types of people, whether you know it or not! At least if we have an understanding of how it works, we can improve our chances of making it last, and getting to our own HEA (happily ever after).