Thursday, October 18, 2018

Characterization: Digging Deep By Personalization

I'm not great at characterization. Years ago, I had an editor tell me my manuscript was lacking in character development. Good plot, but cardboard characters. So I picked up a book, Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins and began taking notes. I thought I would share with you what I've learned.

When you develop a character, the first place you start is by Personalizing. Most of you already do this by interviewing your character or filling out a questionnaire about them. Great! That is a good start! But now you need to dig a little deeper.

Basics:  General information, such as gender, age, work, social standing, etc...

Specifics: This is where you begin to ask questions. Say your character is wealthy. Has she been wealthy a long time or has she just come into wealth?  Knowing the answer to this will tell you her attitude toward her wealth.

Dig Deeper: Keep going with your questions until you can't ask anymore. Let's find out more about the wealthy character in Step 2. Let's say she had just come into wealth. How had she come into her wealth? Did she win the lottery or did she receive insurance money from the death of both her parents? Is she excited about the money, or does she resent the money because it represents the loneliness of being without family? Let's say she won the lottery and is excited about her money. Is she going to go crazy and spend it, or is she going to hoard it, fearful it might run out? If she goes crazy and spends it, what might she spend it on and why? She might purchase cars if she has had to drive old, beat-up jalopies. Or she might buy nice jewelry and clothes if she had been forced to wear hand-me-downs or shop at thrift stores.

But don't stop there...dig deeper. Why does she feel the need to buy nice things? Maybe she felt like people looked down on her for wearing old, worn-out clothes. Maybe she was teased or made fun of. Her self-worth is tied up in how she looks, so now she dresses nice and gets her hair and nails done to feel good about herself. She is worthy now that she has money. That is her inner value.

Traits and Mannerisms: What kind of traits or mannerisms will your character have resulting from their inner value? Our wealthy lady may continually push her hair behind her ears to show off her large diamond earrings. She may click her long, manicured fingernails together subconsciously. You don't need to give your characters an overabundance of traits, but you need some to reinforce their inner value and make them believable.

This is not a one time process. There will be times when your character will want to do something that is "out of character". Start the process over until you know your character's motivation and inner value. You can also do this process in reverse. Start with a quirky mannerism and work your way back to the specifics. Get to know your character inside and out.

This post is just a little taste of all the good information Brandilyn Collins shared in her book, Getting Into Character, Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors. Check it out!

What is your process for characterization? How do you build a character and make them real?

Repost from 2/14/2014


Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother of 4 children, and works part-time as a bookseller at Amazon. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” ~Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories. Her first book, Lord of Her Heart, will release May 2019.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog:
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda

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