Thursday, June 23, 2011

Characters + A Preview of What's To Come!

Characters. Oh, how we love 'em.

Now I've finished blogging out my name, I shall lay off the challenges for a while and continue with our regularly scheduled program. Not that I've done tons of challenges in my short blogging career, mind, though I do find it difficult to dedicate a blog post everyday. At least for now. And so, Tuesdays and Thursdays it is from here on out, unless of course the fancy strikes me on an off-day. Kind of like veering off the beaten path or choosing Raisinets instead of Junior Mints...

All right. Maybe not that extreme.

Yesterday, while browsing through several of my favorite blogs, I stumbled upon award winning author Elizabeth Mueller's latest post: a character interview with her hero, Alex Stormhold. I must say, it really struck me. I mean, what a great way to get to know your own character! Not to mention introduce him or her to the public. Elizabeth's reasons for the interview were many, the main being that her current WIP is in first person/heroine's PoV. So, the reader doesn't ever experience Alex's PoV, save for facial expressions, actions, and dialogue tone--all of which happens through Winter's eyes.

Photo courtesy of deviantart

Now, if you're a plotter, you probably already do something like this. Outlines, charts, maps, and knowing your character down to the day of their birth and every little hair on their head is simply part of your repertoire.

However, if you're a pantser, I'd highly recommend it--before you start your manuscript. What! Sacrilege! Go ahead and say it: "Yeah, right, Alyssia. If I write by the seat of my pants, I actually get to know my characters as I go along. How the heck am I supposed to do an accurate character chart?" Here's the thing: The chart may not be accurate. Not now. But by the end of the novel, it will be. Because you can change it throughout the writing process. That's right! I said it! You can change your own outlines and character charts and potential-plot pages, etc. etc.! Who'd'a thunk it??

photo courtesy of

One of the best character charts I've come across was recommended to me by romance author Shelia Goss, and can be found here. It's fully downloadable, completely free, and you can fill in as much as you want. Don't feel obligated to complete the entire thing, although I can attest from experience: If you make yourself do it--and I'm gonna warn ya, it may take hours--you'll be surprised by the renewed bout of confidence whenever you show up at the page. It makes you stay in character... 'nuff said.

Obviously these are the recommendations of a pantser converting to plotter. However, I cannot lie--I'll likely never be a true member of the latter species. Why? I enjoy the thrill too much. The excitement of not fully knowing what's next. I do, however, want to make certain I know my characters. That I know what they will and will not do, the lengths to which they will and shall go, the very manner in which they handle any given situation. It's all there, in my head, on my character chart. Trust me, your reader will thank you.

Now, for the preview portion of this post (and it's a short one): Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be interviewing my characters, giving you, gentle reader, a front row seat into their thoughts, actions, and emotions, as well as their respective backgrounds. We'll likely begin with a secondary... or, heck! We may even do two at a time, like some of the movie/actor/actress interviews in EW. Shove heroine Hallelujah Farrington in an interview room with Adris or Henry or whomever and just go with it, see what happens. That would be pretty cool, right? Discover how they react to each other's answers and so forth? I think so.

Have a wonderful rest-of-the-week and weekend, everyone! Until next Tuesday!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,



BREA said...

Oh awesome character sheet I am so printing that out!

Thanks for sharing and this is a really good idea!

Andrew Leon said...

First: I'm closer to a plotter than a pantser, although I don't write things down. No charts, graphs, or timelines. I do make notes as I go along about details I'm worried I will forget or don't want to have to go searching for in the text.

Second: However, I can't get into the whole character interview thing. It probably has to do with all the psychology training and the fact that people often don't know themselves as well as they think they do. Or, maybe, it's just that I don't like to be defined.

Actually, I think it's because getting to know your characters lends more to pantsing than plotting. I can see that it's great when you're working on a really character driven story where you don't know what the outcome will be and you need the characters to direct the action. However, when you are plot driven, although you make allowances for the characters, you tend to do more crafting of the characters as you go so that you can bend them to the requirements of the plot.

It's an interesting dynamic, though, that I haven't really thought about in this detail before.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, and that whole Raisinettes thing is just blasphemy! Maybe Goobers, but raisins... blech!

Alyssia said...

@BREA Thanks! Yeah, it's a great help. At least, for me it is. Hope it works just as well for you! :)

@Andrew I am envious of your elite plotting skills. Truly. Most all my stories are character driven. That's not to say the plot isn't there, mind; it is. But I like deep, real characters who move the story. That's just me.

LOL! About the Raisinettes. I looove 'em! Especially the dark chocolates. SO good. But, hey, I like Goobers, too. Not too picky when it comes to chocolate candies. ;)

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, I wouldn't say I have elite plotting skills; I just need to know where I'm going. I'm no good at random driving, either.
Deep, real characters are good. Gotta have them. The plot gets crafted around those characters, after all. :P

I think my problem with Raisinettes is the chewy. I just don't like that so much with my chocolate. Not that I'm a big fan of raisins all by themselves, though.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Alyssia, whoa, I had no idea I had such an impression! I'm feeling the love, baby! ;) Thank you, I will bookmark this post. :)

You know, I am a true-blooded pantser, but I have been known to plot, too. HOwever, when I pants, my characters are born full grown. I already know them quite well as I write. How strange do you think that is?

Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

Paula Martin said...

I get to know my characters as I write them, just as we get to know people in real life.
I don't plan them in advance, I let THEM show me their innermost thoughts and feelings.
I might plan the beginning and a (vague!)end of a story, but I follow my characters as they take me from A to Z. It's a journey of discovery for us all.

alexia said...

I'm part pantser, part plotter. I like that character chart!

Francine Howarth said...

Hi Alyssia,

Fab post, good idea!

luckily, I have little problems knowing my characters, simply because they materialise in overnight dream and reveal their individual history and their story more a movie than novel. My job then to put their love story into words. It works great, no pantsing, no planning, no plotting, just writing.

Portraits in art galleries tend to be inspiration for said overnight movies. BTW, as an aspiring romance writer you might like to check out It has a lot going for it, and steadily growing to a great bunch of romance writers. ;)


Shannon Lawrence said...

I can't wait to read your character interviews! Thanks for the link to the character sheet. I used to have a great one from an English teacher who was a writer, but it has been lost through the years (that was 8th grade!).

I'm definitely a pantser, but my characters grow in my head for quite awhile before I start writing. So once I sit down at the comp, I've already learned a lot about them.

And, finally, love the pic of the princesses!

Alyssia said...

@Andrew Omigosh, you're a texture person. Sigh... ;)

@Elizabeth Not strange at all, actually! And you're right: Your blog post really did make a huge impression, but I always enjoy reading your posts. :) Thanks for commenting and following! I'm honored!

@Paula I guess I perhaps gave off the wrong impression: I use the character chart for a kick-start. A safety blankie, if you will. However, I definitely allow them to be their own people. Heck! More than half the time they shock the dickens outta me either in action or dialogue or sometimes both! Isn't it cool when that happens?

@Alexia That's great, Alexia! Hope you find it useful!

@Francine Beautifully put--no plotting, no pantsing, just writing. That would make a great sign above all our work desks, wouldn't it? As I've gained more experience--and continue to gain more experience--the plot of my novels happens exactly as you said: like a movie reel. Which makes for an exciting, fun experience, I must say. Hey, and thanks for the link! I will definitely check it out!

@Shannon Thanks, Shannon! Character development, for me, happens almost exactly the same. I dream up a what-if concept, which happens entirely by accident, and then the characters begin forming in my head. Talking, moving through scenery, etc. I'm so glad you like the character chart. And the pic of the princesses! LOL... It's one of my favorites. :)

Andrew Leon said...

Yeah, I suppose I am. But I'm nowhere near as bad as my middle child!
Also, I just happen to love mint, especially peppermint. :)

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Wow, You have a really clever blog here!

Alyssia said...

@Andrew Oooh... me, too! As a matter of fact, I grow mint in the backyard. When the breeze catches just right... wow. Smells heavenly.

@Shelly Why, thank you! Glad you stopped by! :)

Lynda R Young said...

character sheets/interviews are great for getting to know a character. I'm now a plotter but I don't always use these kind of guides to discover my characters. They kind of develop over the course of the outlining. The plot events often shape them.

Alyssia said...

They certainly do, Lynda. I remember the first time I used the character sheet--nearly every element about my heroine got changed within, oh, the first 3 chapters. To be honest, I didn't use it for this current WIP. I didn't even make a pretty story-board. I just gridded off a thick poster and am currently plotting via Post-It note. Hey! It's working so far!

Beth said...

I LOVE THIS SITE!!!! Like the whole thing, I want to follow you but I couldn't find a button?...

Andrew Leon said...

Ah... I have envy.
I almost always use pepermint extract in my cocoa.

Alyssia said...

@Beth Thank you! You should be able to click the "follow" button in the upper left hand corner of your screen. :)

@Andrew Oh my goodness. Believe it or not, I've never made it on my own, but I love the Peppermint Mochas from Starbucks. Yes, I know. I'm a bad person for supporting corporate America. *sigh*

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, man. I can't even drink Starbucks anymore. Not since we kicked sugar out of our house. It's just too sweet. I did used to drink them that way, though. Way back when. Like 3 years ago or more, now.
You know, I have a cocoa recipe on my blog. It might be too bitter for you, though.

Arlee Bird said...

I've never tried the interviewing a character route. Perhaps I should try it sometime and see how it works. Couldn't hurt.

Tossing It Out

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