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#FirstDraft60 Day 6: Four Character Building Questions #amwriting #nanoprep #nanowrimo

Friday, October 7, 2016

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comThis 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.

Although I’ll type my (non-spoilery) answers in the comments, in case you get a chance to answer before I do that, here’s how I actually formulated the questions/answers for today’s post:
#FirstDraft60 Day 6: Four Character Questions |

  1. Friday, October 7, 2016 1:24 pm

    1. Whose story am I telling?

    – Captain Quinton Ryles
    – Miss (First Name to Be Determined) Stanhope

    – Mali Brocklehurst
    – Raymond “Brock” Brocklehurst
    – The Raven
    – The traitor
    – Admiral Peter Ainsley

    – Lt. Nicholas Stanhope
    – Adm. Alexander Stanhope
    – Officers and crew of the Executor
    – The Raven’s crew/henchmen
    – [Thomas Brocklehurst?]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Friday, October 7, 2016 1:24 pm

      2. How do the secondary/minor characters connect to your viewpoint characters?

      – Steward?
      – 1st Lieutenant?
      – Who are his friends?
      – Is there anyone in whom he can confide?
      – The traitor – Who is he? Is he betraying Quin as much as his country? the traitor is the person on Quin’s ship who is trying to make Quin look guilty.
      – Adm. Peter Ainsley – Quin’s flag officer/mentor
      – The Raven – the spy/traitor Quin has been hunting

      – Mali – Surrogate mother, friend, companion, confidante
      – Brock – Protector, substitute father, taught her the physical skills needed for being a spy/to defend herself
      – Nick – Brother, only person she trusts completely
      – Thomas – Mali & Brock’s son who grew up with Heroine and Nick; she loves him like a brother
      – Peter Ainsley – ex(?)-fiance
      – Admiral Stanhope – Her father; she respects but resents him for being more of her spymaster than her father over the years
      – The Raven – The main traitor/spy she’s been working to try to take down for the past several years; the one in charge of the men who kidnapped/tortured her for info two years ago
      – The traitor – She thinks it could be Quin–that’s what she’s trying to discover.


    • Friday, October 7, 2016 1:29 pm

      3. What do your viewpoint characters need from the secondary/minor characters?

      – Needs a friend/confidante
      – Needs someone to cast doubt on Heroine
      – Needs to know someone can love/trust him despite his past (his father)
      – Needs someone to help him learn that he cannot allow his father’s actions define who he is or how he views himself
      – Needs to learn that there’s more to life than duty to the Royal Navy (tied in with feeling like he has to spend his life making up for what his father did)

      – Needs someone to help her through PTSD panic attacks and nightmares/sleep walking episodes
      – Needs someone she can trust implicitly
      – Needs someone to tell her it’s okay to hate being a spy—that it doesn’t mean she hates her father/brother
      – Needs someone to help her complete her final mission
      – Needs someone who can show her that real love isn’t based on agendas, trades, gaining information, and quid pro quo.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Friday, October 7, 2016 1:32 pm

      4. As your story opens, who is the most important person in your viewpoint character’s life?

      Himself (as a reflection of his father)—If he lets anyone else matter too much, he’s afraid he’ll hurt them the way his father hurt Quin, his mother, and his sisters.

      Mali—the only person who’s been there for Heroine for her entire life.

      (Okay, so Quin’s isn’t really from his viewpoint but from mine as the author—but because he has so few connections, I had to go there with him.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Friday, October 7, 2016 3:31 pm

        I was thinking that way about my Heroine! lol However, reading your bit here tells me that’s really my viewpoint not hers. As I was reading your bit about Quin being most important I think your answer is in that sentence if his mother & sisters are still alive? 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • Friday, October 7, 2016 4:30 pm

          They are, and he bought his mother a house in the country a few years ago so she could retire (from running a boarding house in Portsmouth). However, he’s been at sea full-time since he was twelve years old, so he might not have seen them more than once every year or two, and then for only a couple of days, if he was lucky. Plus, in the late 1700s/early 1800s, men and women really led separate lives, even when they lived in the same household full-time.


        • Friday, October 7, 2016 4:32 pm

          So I guess maybe he would say it’s his mother, since she’s pretty much the closest relationship he has. But that doesn’t really help me get to know him as much as going all authorish on him.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol permalink
    Friday, October 7, 2016 4:34 pm

    Kaye, I’m so looking forward to working out this exercise tonight (and probably this weekend). I think this is going to help me answer several questions. I probably won’t finish it tonight, but I’ll get a good start.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol permalink
    Friday, October 7, 2016 7:17 pm

    Started working on the questions a little bit. But I’m giving it a rest for tonight and having a nice, cold, relaxing glass of red wine. I’ll work on it tomorrow when my brain is fresher. (And, I refuse to write while drinking even though I never have more than two.)


    • Friday, October 7, 2016 7:47 pm

      I’ve been fatigued and headache-y all day (cold front coming in!). I was going to crack open a new bottle of red wine tonight, but instead I’m fixing something hot to drink and then going to bed early so that I can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the get-together tomorrow morning!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carol permalink
    Saturday, October 8, 2016 12:57 pm

    This exercise totally rocks!! I think this has helped me more than anything ever to start to get a handle on the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Saturday, October 8, 2016 2:13 pm

      Yay!!! Also, we missed you this morning.

      I’m totally going to have to go back and re-answer questions 2-4 for Quin now that I’ve been brainstorming deeply about his background (father/mother and the whole traitor thing). But as I said, these answers can’t be seen as carved in stone. It’s just a starting point!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carol permalink
        Saturday, October 8, 2016 2:14 pm

        Missed being there, for sure. Stupid ragweed.


  5. Shirley Taylor permalink
    Tuesday, October 11, 2016 1:02 pm

    Okay, finally got a rough version of this done…it’s subject to being added to (and possibly subtracted from) and rearranged. 😉
    Four Character Building Questions
    1) Whose story am I telling?
    Viewpoint Secondary Minor
    Hero (TBA) Lady Sorcha Templeton Allison
    Heroine (TBA) Lady Thorndyke Lord Hedley
    Villain (?) Lady Fiona Sheldrake TBA
    Lord Quinton
    Warrick Clarke (Mr./Insp.?)

    2) How do my Secondary/Minor characters connect to POV?
    Hero Heroine
    Lady Thorndyke – Mother (Greek) Sorcha – friend
    Lord Hedley – friend Lord H – brother
    Warrick Clarke – friend & co-worker (?) Fiona – friend
    TBA – valet Allison – maid
    Lord Q – rejected but persistent suitor (villain?)

    3) What do POV characters need from Secondary/Minor?
    Someone to confide in
    Someone to help him embrace being half-British and half-Greek
    Someone to help him see he still cares for heroine

    Someone to restore her belief in love/HEA
    Someone to help her see she still cares for hero
    Someone to help her feel like she has a say/choice in her own life

    4) Who is the most important person in each POV’s life? (@ story start)
    Hero Heroine
    His mother (?) Her brother (?)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wednesday, October 12, 2016 2:29 pm

    I’m playing catch-up on Days 6-10 after a visit from my parents!
    1. Whose Story Am I Telling?
    2. How do secondary/minor connect to POV characters?
    – Jalen Shaw (first-person narration from Jalen’s perspective)

    – Matt Hinson – Jalen’s husband, who she is in the process of divorcing; breakup not amicable and Matt objected; he has emotional/alcohol issues

    – Jenny Bates – Jalen’s younger half-sister (by 4 yrs); who she grew up with until [major incident with her family that I’m still figuring out] pushed J to her dad’s house; relationship somewhat strained since

    – Sallianne Shaw (Bates?) – J’s mother; former alcoholic; unstable during J’s childhood; conflict between them is a main barrier to J’s own happiness/development

    – Wade Bates – Sallianne’s husband and Jenny’s father; J’s step-father; I think J misunderstands him, erroneously thinks that he didn’t want her since she wasn’t his own daughter

    – Jared Allen – Jalen’s biological father; lived with him and his new family after [major incident] that divides J from mom and her family; he was largely absent during her unstable childhood – maybe separated from him by her mom (or maybe J thinks her mom kept him away, but really he was somewhat neglectful); her parents did not have a long-term relationship and J does not have his last name but her mom’s maiden name.

    – Melanie Allen – Jared’s husband, J’s stepmother; don’t have a good feel for her yet

    – Easton Allen – J’s half-brother (close to J’s age) who she grew up with after [major incident]; is she close to him? I think so…he is different from Jalen, went down a more traditional path, but similar spirit despite more reserved job/life

    – Christine Kim – Jalen’s closest friend and her colleague with whom she started the nonprofit; Christine does different work than Jalen – not a social worker – something complementary; they are connected by their mutual friend Rose (deceased due to eating disorder) – founded nonprofit it Rose’s honor

    – Bishop Reed – music producer who offers Matt and Jalen the record deal; pushy and unappealing to J at first but she grows to be interested in him

    – Abby Goines – client at eating disorder facility who Jalen is counseling – hopefully helping Abby and her daughter Leecy find stability; personal issues reflect some of Jalen’s own issues

    – Abby’s daughter Leecy Goines; childhood reflects some of Jalen’s own childhood

    – addl clients at eating disorder clinic – reinforcing the importance of the work that Jalen and Christine do (upping stakes)

    – Rose Maisel – deceased friend of Jalen and Christine; namesake of their nonprofit

    3. What does viewpoint character need from secondary/minor character?
    Jalen needs:
    – To shake off feelings for Matt and move forward for good, or make a decision to stick by him; to resolve complicated resentment for his drinking problem and the volatility of their relationship
    – To resolve brokenness on both sides of her family, and the fractures in their relationships as well as her own self-perception
    – To feel that she fits somewhere; she has always been the odd person out in her family – never fully belonging to her father’s family or her mom’s (in her mind or in reality?)
    – Financial security to continue the foundation’s work she’s doing with Christine; ties into the offer from Bishop and her continuing professional/personal relationship with Matt
    – To admit that she likes performing and not judge herself for it
    – To feel confident in her own skin; to let herself accept both sides of where she came from rather than reject one and try to push herself into the other; to let all of her experiences and history inform who she is and become positive and/or something she can transcend rather than shameful

    4. As story opens, who is the most important person in viewpoint character’s life? (I LOVE THIS QUESTION!)
    Likely Matt; although she is trying to walk away from him, he has been her husband for many years and they know each other better than anyone; he has an ability to see her in ways that even she can’t fully see sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Saturday, October 15, 2016 5:04 am

    1. Whose story am I telling?
    POV characters:
    Henry Powell, convict who has served out his sentence.
    Matilda Brampton, escapee convict prisoner.

    Secondary characters:
    Matilda’s daughter. Charlotte? Victoria? Popular English name. Pretty, but reminds her of ship?? No?
    Henry’s friend and fellow shepherd, John Phillips.
    Matron at the Parramatta Female Factory/ superintendent William Henry Alcock

    Minor characters:
    Soldiers who capture and return Matilda
    Other sheep herders on the trip over the Blue Mountains
    Henry’s dog (name??)
    Rev who marries them

    2. How do the secondary/minor characters connect to your viewpoint characters?

    Matilda has an infant daughter. (who reveals her disguise to Henry). Henry is stuck with the child when Matilda is recaptured
    Henry has a close friend (wants to bring the gospel inland?) who is planning to start an adjoining sheep run with Henry. (is speared by blacks?). Needs him to confide him/leave sheep in his hands while he’s off rescuing Matilda.
    Matilda has to deal with the superintendent/matron at the PFF (shaves her head. Solitary confinement for a week)
    Henry organize rev. for marriage to Matilda.
    Dog interacts with everyone

    3. What do your viewpoint characters need from the secondary/minor characters?
    Answered above.

    4. As your story opens, who is the most important person in your viewpoint character’s life?

    Matilda’s VIP is her daughter.
    Henry’s VIP is his friend/will-be sheep run neighbor, John Phillips.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Monday, October 17, 2016 11:10 pm

    1. Whose story am I telling?
    Viewpoint character is Kendra aka Kenny. Secondary characters are Brad and Jarek. Minor characters are David, the old woman at the bookstore, fans at the events, and people at the haunts.

    2. How is everyone connected to Kenny?
    Brad, Jarek & David work with Kenny as a ghost hunter. The others make up her fringe (fans & people at haunts). The old woman becomes a version of a confidante.

    3. What does Kenny need from the secondary/minor characters?
    Belonging – her family enjoys the perks of her career but doesn’t understand why she does it.
    Confidante – she’s scared about what is happening to her

    4. Who is Kenny’s VIP?
    Brad – he’s down to earth, her occasional lover. He tries to keep her grounded. At least, that’s what she thinks he does.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tuesday, October 18, 2016 11:25 pm

    1) Whose story am I telling?
    Cassandane (only POV at this point)

    Secondary Characters
    Mystic (name TBD)
    Monarch (name TBD)
    Charmer (name TBD)
    Guru/Mentor (name TBD)
    Financier (name TBD)

    Minor Characters
    Ereave Council
    Cassandane’s father, mother, siblings
    Other Aliens

    2) How do my Secondary/Minor characters connect to POV?
    Luminario – love interest, villain
    Mystic, Monarch, Charmer, Financier – core group of friends
    Guru/Mentor – trains Cassandane for her mission
    Ereave Council – employs Cassandane
    father/mother/siblings – family
    Other Aliens – gods/ruling class of the Ereave tribes

    3) What do POV characters need from Secondary/Minor?
    Need encouragement for her mission, needs love and support of friends when she fails, needs them to implement her revenge.

    4) Who is the most important person in each POV’s life?
    Her mentor/guru

    Liked by 1 person


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