Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Character Studies

These are my boys. The two in white are my sons, the three in tuxes are my grandsons. Since the grandboys live in the next state, we don't see them quite as often as we'd like. But when the phone rings and Caller ID reveals it's someone in Oklahoma, it doesn't take long after saying, "Hello," to figure out which one is on the other end. They each have their own personality, their own speech pattern.

Grandson #1 tends to enunciate his words. He's very detail oriented, content to entertain himself for hours with Legos. He's also into dinosaurs and science. Grandson #2 is the comedian of the group. He doesn't try to be, but his timing and delivery are impeccable every time. His speech pattern is more laid back, a little slower. And he loves race cars. Grandson #3 talks fast and his voice has a higher pitch, and Grammy usually comes out Gwammy. And while they're all affectionate boys, he wants just a little more. He's into robots and anything army.

Just like my grandsons, our characters are different, too. Different backgrounds shape their personalities. They speak differently. Someone raised in Boston will have a different speech pattern than someone raised in west Texas. Heck, someone raised in Dallas will speak different than the slow drawl of someone raised in west Texas.

Our characters are unique, and that needs to come across on the page. Give them qualities and characteristics that are indicative of who they are. Do they have the raucous laughter of someone who works hard and plays hard, or do they have a little more finesse? Are they into race cars or cooking? Were they raised in an urban setting or rural?

To do your characters justice, you have to know them. Some writers use extensive character worksheets, others interview their characters. Just like people, the more time you spend with your characters, the more you get to know them and what makes them tick.

How do you get to know your characters? If someone were basing one of their characters on you, which quirkiness or trait do you think they'd pick out?


  1. Mindy,

    Good question. I don't know if I can answer that about myself for others. The one thing that comes to mind I've noticed about myself is my tendency to say things before I think them through. I often make a "faux pas" and embarrass myself. Guess what one of my herione's traits is in the story I'm working on? I never set out to embarrass myself or others- it just seems to happen.


  2. Dianna, you're not the only one with foot-in-mouth disease. Sometimes it's more like entire-shoe-store-in-mouth :-) In Cheryl Wyatt's book A Soldier's Family, the heroine has that same problem. It's a realistic trait. And who better to write it than one who's experienced such faux pas themself?

  3. The boys are so cute! Thanks for sharing.

    As for my characters I use a character sketch and I develop them more as I write.

    I have lots of quirks, at least my hubby says so. But I can't think of any other than my southern accent and phrases that tend to come out. For instance, route is pronounced like "out" with an r in front of it. A "root" is in the dirt, not a direction or path. Every English dictionary would probably disagree with me, but I can't seem to let that one go.

  4. Hey, who says "route" isn't pronounced like "out?" Must be the same ones who spell "y'all" "y'all." Come on people :-)

  5. LOL, I love this question. (And that is an amazing picture of your boys. All of them are just handsome as all get out.)

    I think my friends and family would describe me as very quirky and each would have their own to point out.

    An old friend asked if I still pronounce "bag" with a long vowel. Yep, and every other "ag" word. I have no idea why. I have to work too hard to say it with a short vowel.

    I also often leave something in the microwave at dinner. We sit down and someone always asks if I checked for the vegetables or if anything is left in there. :-)


  6. Ang, I am so relieved to know that leaving things in the microwave counts as a quirk. And all this time I just thought senility was setting in :-)

  7. Cute picture!! They are darling--every last one of them.

    Not sure about my quirks. I'll ask my hubby and get back to you.

  8. Awww, look at the boys! Sons and Grandson's and Grammy just turned Thirty! Wowza!

    My quirks? Where shall I start? I usually want to do it all and then end up procrasting on everything!

    Is that a quirk or a flaw?

    Also, being from the south, I drawl my words. Some of my friends at work love to gig me about it.

    A bad quirk is I pick the ends of my hair when I'm thinking something through, am bored, or want to irritate my husband. ;)

  9. Thirty? Christy, how did you know?

  10. One of my quirks that my family makes fun of is that I SUPPOSEDLY say Atlanta like "Tlanta." And friends used to make fun of me say Chattanooga funny. They said I put in extra syllables. :)

    And Jenn, it's r"out" for me, too. My hubby sometimes says "root" though.

    As for characters... I don't use a chart, but I do a lot of digging to find out about the character's past, his fears, his wants and needs, all that stuff.


  11. Also meant to say how cute all your guys are!!

    Missy :)