#FirstDraft60 Day 6: Four Character Building Questions #amwriting #nanoprep #nanowrimo
This year, this first post dedicated specifically to starting to get to know our characters is going to be different from last year’s.
Last year’s post is a basic overview of how to choose viewpoint characters (vs. secondary and minor) and how to figure out what Point of View (first/third, present/past, etc.) you’re planning to use. But that’s not helpful to me right now, and probably isn’t what you all need right now, either. So here’s the link to last year’s post, if you feel like you need a basic refresher on that stuff.
Instead, we’re going to actually dive right into getting to know our characters and (as we discussed yesterday) making lists about them. (And I’ll post mine in the comments so that you get a better idea of what I’m talking about, in case the questions/explanations below aren’t clear.)
Four Character Building Questions
By way of starting to get to know our characters, I have four questions to get us started—to introduce them to ourselves and to each other.
1. Whose story am I telling?
- List your Viewpoint, Secondary, and Minor characters. You might want to refer to last year’s post if you aren’t sure how to answer this question.
2. How do the secondary/minor characters connect to your viewpoint characters?
- You don’t have to get too in-depth here. Maybe a sentence just to start sketching in how the characters are connected, with, perhaps, a key point about that relationship.
3. What do your viewpoint characters need from the secondary/minor characters?
- This starts getting into the purpose of the secondary/minor characters. What is it that they’re actually bringing to the story? These needs don’t actually have to be tied to a specific secondary/minor character at this point. You just need to start delineating what your characters needs emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc., from the other characters in the story.
4. As your story opens, who is the most important person in your viewpoint character’s life?
- Answer this based on who the most important person is from your character’s viewpoint. Whom would they name as the most important person to them? This question was harder to answer than I thought. It’s hard to pick just one person as the “most important” to these fictional people—plus it requires really starting to get to know the main characters on a deeper level. But answering it for each of my main characters really helped me start understanding the two of them much better.
These answers don’t have to be set in stone— as your story changes and evolves, your characters will, too. You may lose some characters, you may gain some. You may discover that a character you thought was secondary is actually important enough to have a viewpoint (as I did with Charlotte Ransome in the Ransome Trilogy). You may discover that a viewpoint character isn’t as important as you thought and you’ll demote them to secondary (as I did with Lady Pembroke in Ransome’s Honor). So don’t feel locked into anything you put down as an answer to any of these questions. This is just a starting point.
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