Sunday, 10 March 2013

Guest Post by Rachel Harris: Getting to know your characters

Thank you so much, Arlette, for inviting me here today. I love talking about the craft of writing. I love losing myself in topics like theme and plot and character. In fact, the pre-writing phase is always my favorite part of the entire process.

And getting to know my characters just makes me giddy.

They become real people to me. I never begin a manuscript without feeling as though I know my characters inside and out. I want to know how they will react to any situation I throw at them, what their brand of humor is, how they hold themselves, and how they see the world. To show this, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into how I got to know my characters for one of my first manuscripts, a YA Contemporary Romance coming out next year with Spencer Hill Contemporary.
This story is dual POV, so I had two main characters. I went the most in-depth with these two, and each of them probably had about ten pages of information. I used Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens, 8 Ways To Bring Fiction To Life, along with some of my own ideas, to create their backstory, motivations, likes and dislikes, etc. This is also where I described their friends and family, who make up my minor characters. At this point, I also gave those characters their own backstories, and decided things like hair and eye color, etc;

After I had decided what everyone looked like in my head, I got online and started looking for pictures. Not that my characters would fit these images perfectly, but I wanted to have a good representation to turn to when I needed inspiration. Once I decided on a person to "play" each character, I found 6 or 7 images of that actor/actress/model/singer that really showcased the personality of my particular character. I shrunk them all and lined up the images on a single page.

Next came what their fashion sense was. I looked at various sites that showcased celebrity fashion, as well as stores that sold clothing that represented my characters, and saved those images, shrinking them down and lining those up under the other images.

Then came Youtube. I searched videos of the actors/actresses/models/singers that I had chosen to see them "come to life" and I listened to interviews for any words or phrases that really seemed to jump out at me to help with characterization. These are my own characters and I already had a good idea of how they talk based on what I’d already put together, BUT by listening to these interviews (especially for the guys) I was able to come up with unique word choices that seemed to fit those

characters in particular . . . it was actually pretty cool and exciting. I wrote some of these words and phrases down, along with ones that I had come up with in my outline, next to the pictures so at a glance I can be inspired when doing their dialogue.

Last was setting. I looked on real estate sites for my two main characters homes and bedrooms, places I could picture them hanging out. These were shrunk down on the page under the other pictures.

Now, as I write, I have these sheets to look at before I start writing. Whenever I get stuck, I can turn to them for inspiration. I have huge packets for my two main characters, and a general character sheet with a line of images for all of my characters put on two pages that I can look at quickly. Seeing them next to each other really helps me to keep them straight and bring them to life in my imagination.

Everyone’s process is unique and different, and I have no clue if mine would work for anyone else…but hey, it works for me! Now, go forth and write!!!

About Rachel Harris
As a teen, Rachel Harris threw raging parties that shook her parents’ walls and created embarrassing fodder for future YA novels. As an adult, she reads and writes obsessively, rehashes said embarrassing fodder, and dreams up characters who become her own grown up version of imaginary friends.

When she's not typing furiously or flipping pages in an enthralling romance, you can find her homeschooling her two beautiful princesses, hanging out with her amazing husband, or taking a hot bubble bath…next to a pile of chocolate.

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