I'm just going to throw this out there--- I have a love/hate relationship with creating characters.
Of course it's fun to come up with a new story and make decisions about who will play a major role in it...
Will my main character be a boy or girl? Will he/she be tall, skinny, large? What mannerisms will set him/her apart? What color hair shall he/she have? What clothes will he/she wear? Where will he/she live? Who are his/her family members? etc.
The more questions I answer about my main characters, the more I feel like I get to know them! They become real to me. I love it!
...At the same time, though, it's exhausting. I have difficulties trying to decide what I want to eat for lunch, let alone what my character's fears will be or what motivates them to do what they do. It's also hard to know where to stop. Does it really matter what his/her favorite color is? Really?
More recently, I've made a couple discoveries that makes me dread character sketches:
1) All my characters need to be believable, not just the one telling the story. For that, I need to do character sketches for all my characters, not just the main 3-5.
2) Books often have more than a handful of characters because in our hugely populated planet, each person interacts with at least 5-10 (or more!) people on a regular basis. So, sure I might have 3 main characters, but each of them know another 10 people (or more) each...
Sketching Characters: Trick #1
There are lots of ways to get to know your characters. In the past, I've done the traditional 10 questions:
But answering these questions only skims the surface of who your character is. It's a start, but that's all it is.
Sketching Characters: Trick #2
Last November, when I did my first NaNoWriMo, someone in the forums or in the webinars (I can't remember where), suggested that I interview my character.
I imagined my character sitting across from me in my living room. I had a pad of paper in my hands and I interviewed her like she was Sandra Bullock or Ann Hathaway. I imagined someone counting down: 3...2...1... action! The camera light turned from red to green, and I got to business. I chatted with my character about her role in the story, her secrets, her fears and her relationships with her siblings, teachers and friends.
After the interview, I read the "transcript" to Hubby, but (bless his heart) he got bored. Character sketches are only interesting to those who write them, I soon learned.
As I'm preparing for CampNaNoWriMo for this April, I'm thinking about all my characters, not just the three I interviewed in November. I think for the major-minor characters (if that even makes sense) I'll do an interview, but in addition to that, I have another trick for getting to know your characters.
Sketching Characters: Trick #3
I'm taking an online creative writing class right now, and I learned this trick from my teacher:
Write a letter from your main character to you, as if you are pen pals.
I did this for my main character. Her letter helped me think of new scenes for my book, which is always nice! Plus, it made it feel like my character and I are more than just interviewer and interviewee. It's a relationship. She's aware of me as much as I am of her. I'm planning to write a letter back, asking more questions about her situation, etc.
But I'm, hopefully, going to start writing letters to and from my other characters.
It's time consuming to create so many characters. I groaned the last time one popped into my book because I had to go through the 10-question list. But with the interview and pen pal letters, at least it's a fun experience. It's also effective because I have to instantly "hear" the character's voice. For me, it's been the most effective and enjoyable part of character sketching.
Sketching Characters: Bonus Trick!
Lastly, the thing that I felt silly doing, but my creative writing teacher strongly encouraged of us was to find pictures in magazines or on the Internet that could represent our character(s). I felt a little silly looking for someone who looks like the person I created in my head, but it took hardly any time at all on Pinterest and Google to find a picture that looked like my main character. I found her siblings, too.
There's a part of me that wants to reach out to these random people on the Internet and let them know that they, basically, look like the characters I drew in my mind. I'm not sure if they'd be honored or just find it creepy, though...
The point of this bonus trick, though, is that it gives me a visual of the character. Sure, I "see" her in my mind every time I sit down to write, but it's good to have a photo of her as well. It makes the experience a little more "real" for me.
Current Writing Goals
My goal this Spring Break (and the rest of March) is to correspond like pen pals with each of the characters that I know are in my story. I think that will help me most prepare for CampNaNoWriMo.
My CampNaNoWriMo goal, by the way, is 25,000 words. I got 31,741 words last November. I only need about another 20,000 to get to 50,000, but I'd rather have more words than not enough--- so I think 25,000 will be good. I'm going to continue working on my previous project that I had in November. It's my first time at camp. I'm looking forward to it!