How to Get to Know Your Characters Better

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“You make it look like work. I need to see the movement, not the effort behind it.”
Jonathan in Center Stage

Okay, Jonathan was talking about ballet but I have a theory that almost all of these types of statements can be applied to writing. And just like ballet, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes in writing that isn’t – or shouldn’t be – visible in the final published book.

I have no academic research to back this up but I suspect for a book that ends up around the 100,000 word mark, a writer would actually write closer to 200,000 words and discard the other 100,000 words as part of the editing process. Not all of those discarded words would be prose, of course. A lot of it would be research.

The problem with research is that no amount of it will help a writer to get to know their characters better. Because characters, like people, are more than just a collection of facts. They are human. They are unpredictable. And how they will react in any given situation is difficult to know. In fact, the only way a writer will know is to put them in that situation and see what happens.

The situations that might teach writers something about their characters may not necessarily make the final cut of their books. But writing them anyway can be a great way to get to know their characters better. So here are a few options for doing just that. Continue reading

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The Fictional Diary: Another Way to Structure Your Novel

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I wrote recently about some of the basic choices writers must make when they first begin to write their novel – tense, point of view and perspective – and another of those basic choices is the format of the book. One of the great options is writing your novel as a diary.

Diaries are great for readers because as well as telling a story, they also give a voyeuristic view into the worlds and lives of the people writing them. Diaries are great for writers because they allow for a type of novel that is more focused on the voice of the character rather than how beautiful the words of the author are (even though they are essentially the same thing).

For anyone struggling to get into writing a novel in a more straightforward narrative, a great way to exercise the writing muscles is to forget about writing the novel and to write a diary from the perspective of the main character or characters. Continue reading