Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bringing your characters to the table (for pie)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who's celebrating it today! Even if it's not part of your cultural, spiritual or personal repertoire, it's a good day to give thanks anyway: it's a Thursday and all good things happen on Thursdays. (And it never hurts to eat more pie than humanly possible. I should know; I do it every year.)

So, I'm a huge fan of my characters. I like to spend an absurdly long time getting to know them before I have to subject them to all sorts of dastardly things MUA HA HA (we writers are a macabre people.) The more time I spend digging into their psyche and WHY they are who they are, the easier writing them becomes, no?

Getting to know a character goes way beyond hair color, eye color and favorite type of pie (pecan, always pecan). We could all fill in a dossier of information about the hero down to their blood type, I'm sure (which, incidentally, means a lot more than I realized in Japanese culture) but can we detail our characters minute quirks? Their conversational tics? Sometimes we ourselves don't know how WE'LL react to a particular situation until it presents itself. But that's not really a liberty we can leave up to our characters alone--we, as the almighty writers, have to know before they do.

As it is with time spent with a family around the dinner table, there's sometimes no greater way to understand someone than to eat corn next to them for extended periods of time. Therefore, I present a Thanksgiving Day Challenge (challenge challenge)! Take a few characters out of your WIPs and set them around the dinner table. Put the Chinese immortal goddess next to the AV club geek. Put the apologetic dragon next to resentful ex-Nam soldier of fortune. Let the mad scientist carve the turkey. What do they talk about? What do they doodle on their napkins? Who spits in the gravy boat? And who retaliates with a bottle of salad dressing to the face? (but enough about my family) Though the scene will never make it into a book, it'll be priceless for what you might learn about your characters.

Now if you'll excuse me, the pecan pie is ever so insistently calling.

P.S. I took the challenge myself and drew a picture of it. This was, of course, before the cupcake stuffing started flying. Happy Thanksgiving, all!


L. T. Host said...

Great post :) I'm not sure I can imagine all my characters at a table together without my mind exploding. But I shall try... for SCIENCE!

Oh-- care to elaborate on the blood type/ Japanese thing? Sounds interesting!

K. Marie Criddle said...

For SCIENCE!! Good luck!

And the Japanese/blood type thing is interesting; it seems more like a pop science than an actual science, but it's a lot like horoscopes: your type determines aspects of your personality. It's so prevalent that any sort of anime character dossier (or movie star or singer, etc) almost always has a blood type added on: just as a way to get to know the character even more.

More here:

And if someone bura-haras me for being an O+, I'm going shogun on them.