Writing Wednesday – Creating Characters

Welcome to Writing Wednesday where I talk about writing!

Last week I talked about being a panster when it came to creating characters. I often start with a story idea, and then fit the characters into that story. Unfortunately that often results in a lot of rewriting. I know I had gotten a good 20k into Exodus before I had Hank’s voice, and I had to go back and rewrite the beginning.

When I wrote Angels Rising, I had written the entire novel when I realized I had made Raphael the main character, and it really needed to be Uriel. And I had committed the cardinal sin of making Uriel do something assholish to fit the plot. I rewrote that entire book from the beginning, fixing those problems. But it would have been a good thing if I could have figured out my characters from the beginning!Cover of Angels Rising

So I’m changing how I develop characters.

But what method to use? I attended a workshop on the Verbalize method, which I used when working on Stealing Jennifer (out this month! Cover reveal and pre-order links coming next week!). I liked the focus on actions – what the character does defines them.

However, when I tried to apply the method to other novels, it just fell apart. I discovered that I like it when my characters grow organically, and this method didn’t quite let me do that.

I figured out what’s important is understanding the characters and what they want before I start drafting the book. I don’t like doing forms or checklists that go on for pages. I need to know the core heart of my character, and then the details get filled in.

When I started writing my latest work in progress, I figured out what both main characters want and love, and how they are getting in their own way of achieving their goals. As I write, tiny details become apparent to me. I’ve reached the coveted 30,000 word mark, and I don’t feel the need to go back and rewrite the entire book (yet!). These boys are solid, and now I just have to break them apart before they can have their happy ending.

One trick I wanted to share with you from one of my MFA texts – Plot Versus Character – that really worked for me. Before starting writing the novel, write a scene where your character is doing the most in-character thing they could be doing. This really helps solidify your character in your mind.

How do you create characters? Any tips to share? Leave them in the comments!

Wednesday – What type of writer am I?

Welcome to Writing Wednesday where I talk about writing!

In my time pursuing a writing career I have seen over and over that there are two kinds of writers: Pansters and Plotters. Plotters, of course, are those who sit down and plot every little scene of their book before they ever start writing. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, never knowing what was going to happen next, caught up in the chaos and excitement of their words.

For the longest time I thought I was a pantser, even though I drew up general outlines. Why? Because usually around 30k words into a manuscript, I’d realize something was terribly wrong, and I had to go back to the beginning and start over.

Then, in one of my more useful MFA courses, we read a book called The Craft of Writing. In this book the author proposes there are two kinds of writers: Plot first writers, and Character first writers.

My problem suddenly became clear to me. I was a plot first writer – I had my story idea all figured out. However, I was a panster when it came to creating characters. So often by the time I made it to the middle of a book, I realized I was trying to shoehorn my character into something he wasn’t, merely to fit the shape of the plot I’d sorted out in the beginning.

This leads to a lot of re-writing.

I propose the following diagram for writer types:

I think this is more reflective of my writing style. I believe I fit in the lower left quadrant there.

Now that I know, I’m starting to spend more time with my characters before I begin drafting. If I get to know them first, then hopefully this will mean less re-writing in my future.

What kind of writer are you? Let’s chat in the comments!

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