Monday, August 20, 2012

HOW TO KEEP UP WITH YOUR CHARACTERS


Ask any love-sick, starry-eyed teen how she keeps up with her boyfriend, and she may take the time to tell you; that is, if she’s not busy texting him or racing to the nearest mall to purchase that cute, got-to-have-it mini skirt, perfect for their next movie-date and a jaw-dropping reaction.

The where-a-bouts, habits and detailed personality traits of characters are equally crucial for an author.  Any inconsistencies will likely discredit the writer.  So how should you, the writer, keep it all together?

Do the leg-work before you start your book.

This isn’t the most exciting part of novel-writing, but, it is necessary.  You should know the basic outline to your book and its plot.  A general grasp of the ending should be apparent as well. 

Another way to achieve a cohesive storyline is through mind mapping.  Additionally, some authors keep a summary log of important details involving their characters. This allows for a quick reference opposed to searching haphazardly through the entire manuscript. (This is oftentimes in addition to the synopsis.)

 Know your characters like they’re your best frenemy.

Does the main character tend to cower in sticky situations because he was abused as a child, but becomes an extravert once placed in a leadership role?  What outstanding features does the character have?  Again, as I’ve stated in other articles, zodiac signs are excellent sources for developing personality traits.

Your characters’ actions should be consistent.

Many times, in the intensity of the moment, a writer visualizes a great scene as it filters out through his or her fingers.  However, the author may, inadvertently, have a character stand and leave a room in which the character never entered in the first place.  If your character’s favorite cigarette is Marlboro Lights, then the following two or three chapters shouldn’t show her smoking Virginia Slims, unless there’s a reason for the change-of-heart.

 Does Morris Day and the Time really know what time it is?

It’s important to let the reader know where the characters are in the story.  Is it day or night?  Monday or Friday?  Are pumpkins outside because Halloween is coming up?  Are the trees budding because it’s springtime?  Is the story present-time or from the 1930s?

Making note of the smallest detail can make all the difference in plot development or the outcome of your book.  Readers will delight in the recall of a seemingly insignificant event or item mentioned early on, and later discovering it has greater meaning.

How do you keep up with your characters?

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