In the beginning there were the simple forms to fill out per story character: favorite color, height, eye color, best subject in school, best friend, worst friend, favorite music, etc. But I now see that’s no different than the simple introductions at teambuilding events or summer camp.
Instead of sharing around the campfire, let’s dig a little deeper for truly rich characters.
I put one of my main characters in a novel I’m working on - SuperSense - on the couch and applied some psycho-analytic tools to find out who she really is. The results surprised me.
I assembled skills learned from many books and diverse workbooks.
The process takes you beyond the basics and beyond archetypes, into the heart and soul of your character. Much of the information I learned probably won’t make it directly into the novel, but it will inform Natasha's behavior, her responses, her choices and her actions.
Next up I grabbed at the villain in the story and discovered the similarities in background, but differences in how they each opted to use that background. How past trauma and upbringing affected the choices they each made.
We all have things in our past - good or bad - that changed us, made us question our path and choices. If we’re willing to look at those events and find a way to understand how they shaped us, then we can use that information to grow and also to develop richer characters for stories.
For example: using these psycho analytical processes I was able to discover the reason for Natasha’s reluctance to use her special skills even though she’s sought out by others to use them. I now see the internal conflict she wrestles with almost daily, which is only exacerbated by the initial response she gets from her highly science-driven and logical teammates when she’s tossed into the team.
Natasha was raised by her grandmother (this was news to me until I put her on the couch) and her grandmother was a celebrated psychiatrist who kindly dismissed the girl’s abilities as a form of ‘hysterical’ coping mechanism after the traumas in her early life.
You can see how that might set up feelings of shame and a reluctance to open up to others about the skills she has.
I am still refining this character building tool for writers, but I am open to sharing the information and potentially setting up a series of online workshops if there is enough interest.
Leave a comment, email, tweet or even an old fashioned snail-mail letter to my PO box (address on www.elynnhwriting.com) and I will respond.