Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Nail Your Character's Personality

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First allow me to start with my greatest writing pet peeve. I totally dislike filling out the character personality forms. You know, the ones that ask fifty to one hundred annoying questions about your character--that you have no clue how to answer.

Do I really need to know my MC's birthday, favorite color, hobby, or if he/she sleeps on the right or left side of the bed, prefers to wear jeans or dress clothes, etc if it doesn't pertain to the story?

Yes, yes, I understand that by completing these forms I could better "know" my character. But the truth is, I don't. 

I don't know if my character will melt at the sight of a daisy with one remaining petal and the words to follow are "He loves me not". 

Or if MC will: 

*know how to fix a tire, 
*sing like crystal, 
*laugh at a snarky joke, 
*press her hand on the chest of the most attractive man in the world then suddenly think to dab the hot chocolate from her lips before he kisses her, 
*cry over a Hallmark commercial
*inhale food or daintily eat small forkfuls
*knock soft or loud on a door when angry

We can't assume all people respond the same. Not all angry people bang on a door or ball their fist, or furrow their brows, or...

It is HARD to get inside an MCs head with the sacred fifty to one hundred character questions.

All right, Mary, you might be saying. How do you suggest the problem be solved?

I propose we do a sixteen part class discussing the character personality puzzle together. No need to sign up, and if you miss one, you can easily scroll back to the previous class. Each post will stand independent, this is not a skyscraper building block course.

Are you ready to give it a whirl? I hope so.

Let's start with an Introduction.

We will look at sixteen different character personalities. Each one will include male and female examples to help you better understand how this type of character would respond in a given situation. 

What we will be looking at are character personality only and not physical appearance. 

For example: A character is sitting on a bench waiting for transportation to work. The bus turns onto their street. How would a Forrest Gump character respond? You already know, right? The picture is in your head. Quick, jot down in the comment section what popped in your mind. Remember we will be discussing the personality only. Your MC will have different physical features and will, most likely, not look at all like Forrest Gump

Now, imagine a Marilyn Monroe character sitting on that bench? Oh, now we have a very different response, right? I don't have to suggest anything. Your mind is already there and could write either scene.  Quick, jot down in the comment section what popped in your mind.


No, I'm not suggesting this will be easy. But what I am suggesting is by determining which one of sixteen character personalities belong to your MC you will be able to paint the best 3-D, heartfelt stories because your character will be consistent and although he/she grows in their journey, they will respond to situations in conjunction with their personality--and not because of their birthdate. ( the sarcasm thing going...hanging head)

Because we will be celebrating Christmas, part one will be on January 7 and address the character who is outgoing, creative, empathetic, and open minded. Yes, all of this in one character!

Are your characters stuck in quicksand, begging to be free of trivial details to  express their personality? To live their life to the fullest?

Have you struggled to make your MC unique, just as you are unique? 

We are more than our outsides...more than details...we are heart and soul.


If you found any typos in today's post...Mary Vee, (that's me sheepishly grinning), is waving her hand as the guilty party. 

If you have questions or would like this topic discussed in greater detail, let me know in the comment section. I'll gladly do the research and write a post...just for you :)

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes young adult mystery/adventure Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Titi Funtó said...

Thank you so much for this, Mary! This is just what I need. I am very much looking forward to your following posts. I certainly have much to learn regarding character personality.

Tell the World

Mary Vee Writer said...

Titi, I'm excited too! And happy to have you join me on this quest.

kaybee said...

Thank you, Mary. I personally struggle with the charts because I do a lot of historicals, and right now I'm in the throes of an Oregon Trail story and its sequel. HOBBIES? Women in that time frame didn't have time for hobbies. LOL. (They also wouldn't have understood LOL.) (LOL.) I don't do a lot of charting but instead I try to "live" with my characters, which is why I have points on my driver's license and am constantly burning meals.
I will look forward to the series. Remind us. Jan. 7 is still a ways off.
Kathy Bailey

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Mary, I'm looking forward to this series. It promises to be fun and helpful! :)

BTW, a Marilyn character would have totally pushed down her dress as she stood, flipped a stray blonde bang out of her eye and made an impression by the way she slowly swayed her way up each step and down the aisle to her seat. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Yeah, Jan 7 is far away, Kathy. I'll put a reminder in the weekend edition and on FB the day I post the first class.
I can see your dilemma though when working with historicals. Hopefully we will find a way to help you with the problem.
BUT I don't think I'll be much help with the burned meals and points. HAH. I've had the same thing happen!

Mary Vee Writer said...

And a wink to those handsome men? Perhaps a blown kiss or two? Love it.
Visualizing a known character's action is much easier for me to apply to a character.

Rachelle O'Neil said...

Looking forward to this series, Mary! Getting to know my characters is definitely a struggle! And you're right - those forms are more pain than help.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Hey, Rachelle,
Nice to see you. I'm so excited to do this series and hoping many will benefit, including the teacher!