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It's always a good idea to get to know your characters before starting your novel. Of course, little quirks and warts always show up as the story progresses. However, I feel it is a good idea to 'get to know' your main characters before jumping into to your story.
How, exactly is this possible? Our characters are not 'real' people. Perhaps they are not 3-dimensional people``but as a writer, my characters must be 'real' to me and to my readers. Otherwise, I do not have a novel or a believable story to tell.
So. how exactly. do I go about 'profiling' my characters?
Here are a few things which I implement:
See what he/she will share with you. What he hides, what motivates him, and what he really needs.
- Basic Information: What is the character's age, sex, ethnicity? Describe his physical appearance (include unique features, scars, dimples). How does he dress? What about his clothing speaks to the kind of person he is (carefully pressed/rumpled and stained). What item does he carry about with him. What is it he can't live without?
- Voice: Does the character speak quickly or slowly? Does he overuse any verbal tics? Are his sentences choppy or rambling? Is he well educated? Working class? If you were blind folded, could you pick-out your character's voice in a room filled with people? Why?
- Education and Finances: Is he naturally intelligent, clever, witty, or shy? Is he book-smart? Self-taught, or experienced in a specific field? Is he barely scraping by, allow him to live comfortably? Is his job a job, or personally satisfying?
- Special Skill and Talents: Day-to-day skills? Computers, mechanical, green thumb, cook? Talents? Name on unique talent the character has that no one knows about, and one talent he openly shares. Are any of these skill a pride or and embarrassment? Why?
- Family and Family dynamics.
- Morals and Ethics: Is is always of particular interest to me because most of my stories deal with social issues.
- Identity vs. Persona: What five words would your character use to describe himself? What 5 words would his best friend/family member use?
- Secrets and Fears: What is your character's biggest secret? His biggest fear?
- Backstory and Wound: Thinking about that fear and secret, the once your character doesn't want to reflect on or admit to. . .what event in his past caused the very thing he feared come to pass? How this event sent him on a new life path?
- Needs, Desires: What is your opening moment--the start of the story? What makes this day any different from any other day? What does he think will make him happy? What does he care not wish for? What would allow him to face any challenge/hardship?