Tag Archive | Character

How to Name Your Character

Let’s be honest…we’ve all been there.

Whether it’s being stuck on a character creation screen or agonizing over what your new book hero is going to be called, naming a character is one of the hardest things about creation. Do you go for something simple, or elaborate? What if the name you want doesn’t sound right or no one likes it? Just how many baby naming websites do you have to look up before you know you’ve found the perfect name?

Naming characters is hard, but it doesn’t have to stress you out. If you ever find yourself in a naming pickle, try some of these strategies to see if it makes things easier:

  1. Match your character’s name with his/her personality. When I was looking to name my main character, Edward, from The Ripple Affair, I sought out a name that would reflect the type of person he was. Edward is a guardian of the people he cares about, doing anything for them, and the meaning of his name (guardian or protector) fits that.
  2. Match your character’s name to his/her destiny or surroundings. Jacob Ichabod in The Ripple Affair is a knight destined to be ignored for his talents by the monarchy, which leads him to eventually betray his king. The meaning of his surname is “no glory”, and this reflects the struggles he’s going to have in the story.
  3. Match your character’s name to his/her culture or background. When developing the Recu people in The Ripple Affair, I knew I wanted their culture to be based on a Slavic naming system, so their names (such as Bohden, or Bohdan, as the original spelling is) reflects that.
  4. Match your character’s name to his/her time period. The 18th century popularized character traits and virtues for girls’ names. Being a woman of 18th century America, Charity from Captain Patty and the Boston Buccaneer needed to have a name that reflected the time period she was a part of.
  5. Go with your gut. Sometimes a character name just pops in your head and you know it’s the right fit. It might happen quickly or it might happen years down the road. When I was working on Captain Patty and the Nameless Navigator, I had no idea that Bateau was going to be a character until around 7 years after beginning the story. Before then, he didn’t exist. When I decided to add him, I had no clue what his name was, but in the back of my mind, the word “Bateau” kept repeating itself, like it sounded right. Keep in mind I spoke hardly any French at the time. After a few weeks, I decided to look up what Bateau meant. Sure enough, after looking up the meaning, I knew it was the right pick.

Whether you’re creating a game character or writing a story, naming a character can be tricky! What are some ways you come up with character names?

Weekly Update – Finding Callida

I’m in the middle of writing Heir of Vengeance, and that means I have to start working on a new character: Callida Serus, Malina’s older sister.

When I first started planning The Ripple Affair over a decade ago, Callida didn’t exist. In fact, though Malina mentioned having a sister, she was never supposed to appear, remaining a blurb in a sentence for the entire series.

But you know how writing goes. Plans get thrown out the window and characters tend to surprise you.

Callida came about as I was writing the ending for Heart of Deceit. And now that she’s arrived, that means I have to figure out her character – her motivations, her wants, her strengths and weakness, her future. Let me tell you…that’s not easy when the character didn’t even exist until the fourth book was finished.

So this week (as I’ve been recovering from another flu bug), I’ve been spending some time figuring her out. I can’t say I completely know her as well as I do Edward, Bernie, or Malina yet, but she is getting there, and she’s already proving to be a nice contrast to her younger sister. I’m excited for you all to meet her when Heir of Vengeance is complete!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! Have a great week! ūüôā

Weekly Update – Oops…

I‚Äôm in the final edits of Captain Patty and Veronica‚Äôs Vengeance, and I have to tell you…I‚Äôm regretting something major that I‚Äôve done in this series.

(Incoming spoilers in case you haven’t read the first book in the Captain Patty series or are not wanting some small snippets from the upcoming book.)

So…Patrick.

Yes, Patrick.  The original Patrick Peterson and the second Captain Patty‚Äôs husband.  If you recall, there‚Äôs a small blurb about him in Book One that says he was shot and killed by Rudiger Bartleby during a pirate raid.  Patty (the wife) and baby Reuben escaped and went on to become who we know them as today- a chocolate-addicted cartographer and a sassy pre-teen with a love for all things stink pot.

But as I‚Äôve been working on Book Three, and writing Patty‚Äôs backstory on how she met and fell in love with Patrick, I find myself saying, ‚ÄúOops!‚ÄĚ  Maybe I shouldn‚Äôt have offed Patrick so quickly before I developed his character to something more than a name.  He‚Äôs been too fun to explore and he‚Äôs brought a lot of comedy and life to the story.  Should I have really ended it so soon?

It‚Äôs one of the struggles of being an author: when do you write off a character?  Grant it, Patrick‚Äôs death leads Patty to get her own ship and keeps her and Reuben safe for a while from Bartleby, but still…when you grow to love a character so much, it‚Äôs hard to part with them.  (Believe it or not, character write-offs are sometimes just as hard for the writers as it is for the readers.)

So I guess this post serves as a giant ‚ÄúOops‚ÄĚ to my readers.  If you enjoy Patrick as much as I, I‚Äôm sorry to say he doesn‚Äôt come back (what happens in Book One can‚Äôt exactly be erased).  I do hope that, despite his appearance in only one book, you‚Äôll enjoy his presence and contributions to the story, short as it might be.

And if people really, really, really enjoy his character, well…I guess there‚Äôs always a spin-off.  ūüėČ

Have a wonderful week!

Weekly Update – You Mean Book Characters Aren’t Real???

Apologies for the late post, friends!  It was a busy weekend and I’m finally able to post!

A while back ago, I made the comment that I tended to know my book characters better than real people.  I meant it as a joke, of course, because as a writer, it’s part of my job creating, developing, and getting to know these characters from beginning to end.  But some of the reactions I got were quite comical, as some thought it meant I really, truly was being isolated from real people!

I had to explain that it was a writer joke, and we all had some good laughs over it, but the truth is there is a special bond that develops between a writer (or even a reader, in many cases) and a book character.  We see what’s inside their head, we learn what makes them happy or sad, we witness their proudest accomplishments and greatest defeats.  And though we know (deep down inside) that fiction book characters aren’t real (unless we’re dealing with historical fiction, lol), we still develop a great love, loyalty, and understanding between them, often similarly like we do with real people.

Though I can’t speak for others, I find myself rejoicing in the fact that I have such a great “relationship” with my characters.  Like real people, I learn about myself and others through my interactions with them.  And though I can’t replace real people with them (as much as I’d love to get a hug from Marcus Peterson, it’s just not going to happen…*cries*), I can still be swept away on incredible journeys and exciting escapes with every page.

I have fun with my friends and I have fun with my book characters, and I’m happy to say that both have made me into who I am today.  Who are some characters that have made a big impact on your life?

The Evolution of Character

When I was little, I was bound and determined to be a meteorologist.

I’d watch¬†The Weather Channel on a daily basis. ¬†I’d study cloud patterns to¬†try and predict rain by looking up at the sky. ¬†When a storm came up, I’d watch the radar with keen eyes, studying the wind¬†direction.

And then I saw Jurassic Park.  My dreams of meteorology were thrown out the window and I soon dreamed of flying to far away lands, digging up dinosaur bones and hopefully one day genetically growing my own brontosaurus.

Of course, that dream changed when I saw Apollo 13. ¬†I then vowed to become an astronaut to study the stars and visit planets and asteroids. ¬†I read every biography, studied every space program. ¬†I even started studying flight because I heard “Pitch, Roll and Yaw” was a popular read for astronauts (not sure how true that is, but as a kid I thought it best to study it anyways.)

By the time I got to college my mind had changed considerably on what I could do with my life. ¬†I wanted to be a preacher. ¬†I wanted to be a singer. ¬†I wanted to be a chemist. ¬†I wanted to be a teacher. ¬†I didn’t¬†look at writing as a serious career until I was in my mid-twenties.

Over the years (I’ve noticed), change has been my constant companion. ¬†I’m not the same person I was ten or even five years ago. ¬†I’ve grown, matured, and learned things along the way. ¬†And five¬†years from now, I’m sure I’ll change some more.

As I’ve been working on Book 2 and Book 3 of “The Ripple Affair” series, I can’t help but look back at how much my characters have changed. ¬†These stories have been a work in progress for ten years and going, and though some characters have remained untouched, many characters have gone through drastic changes as the story has progressed and grown.

Take (for example) Emmerich. ¬†(Slight spoilers ahead, if you’re looking…)

We first meet Emmerich in Book 1. ¬†At first we can see he is a quiet individual-bookish, shy, and full of manners. ¬†As we get to know him throughout the story, however, we see other traits pop up. ¬†He holds grudges when he’s wronged. ¬†He’s a passionate individual. ¬†He loves¬†deeply. ¬†And as we get into Book 2, we’ll find that he has many more traits as well (and I’ll admit they’re pretty humorous.)

But when I first started writing Emmerich’s character, he was anything but the person he is in the story now.

Ten years ago, he had a small cameo. ¬†He was “the queen’s adventurous and brave nephew”, called upon when someone needed a daring task to be done or something to be hunted. ¬†He never had a scene with his cousin Edward and was a close friend of Marcus Peterson.

Five years ago, his story grew.  He was no longer limited to just being the brave hunter.  Connections to other characters began to form and a history began to appear.  He was an only child.  How would that effect his relationships with his family?  He soon had some scenes with Edward.  Were they friends?  Were they enemies?  Did they even see each other living so far away?

One¬†year ago, his story began to take shape. ¬†As other characters’ stories came forth and changed, Emmerich’s soon had to adapt. ¬†Edward had a strained relationship with his family members, and that would include Emmerich. ¬†But why did they not get along? ¬†Were they too different, or was it something else? Emmerich’s father (who had not existed a year ago) was created and given the job of being an ambassador to Edeland. ¬†Edward’s wife-to-be is from Edeland, so did Emmerich know her? ¬†It turns out he did.

The character (and story) evolved from there. ¬†Like time and experience had changed me when¬†growing up, so had it changed Emmerich. ¬†Time passed and experience happened. ¬†The story grew and Emmerich had to adapt. ¬†Though he could’ve stayed as the brave hunter, his role in the story would have been limited or non-existent and he wouldn’t have been able to grow. ¬†Changed allowed him to adapt. ¬†Experience and time made him into the character he is today.

I admit I don’t like change. ¬†It takes me out of my comfort zone and I can’t predict what the outcome of that change will be. ¬†But I also can’t prevent it sometimes, and perhaps that’s a good thing. ¬†Without change, I’d still be a kid. ¬†Without change, I¬†would never have learned how much I enjoy studying dinosaurs and space. ¬†Without change, I would’ve never taken the chance to write. ¬†And without change, Emmerich would have just remained¬†a name on a page with no contribution to the story. ¬†Time passes and experience grows. ¬†Just as I’m still changing as I get older, Emmerich will continue to evolve. ¬†Experiences will happen. ¬†Time will (hopefully) make him wiser. ¬†Relationships will come and go. ¬†But Emmerich will grow along with his story, just as I¬†grow along with mine.

Apparently Chivalry Isn’t Dead (At Least According to Sir Peterson)?

Typically, favorite characters in a story are easy to spot.

They’re the brave, brilliant¬†hero/heroine¬†like Katniss Everdeen. ¬†They’re the snarky, sassy loud-mouth like Sheldon Cooper. ¬†They’re the sweet and adorable comedian like Bolin. ¬†Sometimes, they’re the crazy and clever villain like Jim Moriarty. ¬†Favorite characters are pretty easy to spot because they’re popular, unique, and bring something important to the overall story¬†they find themselves in.

So when I started hearing feedback from readers regarding my book, “The Ripple Affair”, I thought I had everyone’s favorite characters figured out. ¬†I knew people would love Bernie. ¬†She’s blunt, funny, smart, and real. ¬†I also figured people would love Edward, with his emotional turmoil, and Malina, with her deceptive and clever manipulating skills.

But though I heard readers enjoyed these characters, there was one character who topped the “favorite’s list” above everyone else.

That character was Marcus Peterson.

Now don’t get me wrong. ¬†I *love* Marcus. ¬†He is one of my favorite characters because, frankly, he’s like my dream guy. ¬†He’s brave, kind, loyal, and very chivalrous. ¬†But as I was writing the story, I didn’t think readers would enjoy him that much. ¬†In “The Ripple Affair”, he’s the heroic supporting character without a flaw about him. ¬†If you’re familiar with the term “Mary Sue” (or “Gary Stu”, since Marcus is a guy), I was certain readers would put that label on him. ¬†In Book One, he’s almost too perfect. ¬†No mention of flaws, no great struggles to make him grow as a character, and certainly nothing to make you doubt his success as a knight in the royal guard. ¬†Writing a series, I know Marcus does have flaws (which will come to light in later books), but “The Ripple Affair” doesn’t reveal them.

Confused as to why such a chivalrous and perfect character would be so popular, I decided to ask some readers why Marcus was their favorite. ¬†Their answers were surprising. ¬†“He stands up for what’s right.” ¬†“He’s so chivalrous.” ¬†“He’s not afraid to speak the truth.” ¬†“He’s brave and has no problem going¬†against the wrong.” ¬†“He tells it like it is.” ¬†“He’s so loyal.”

I grew up hearing from culture that “chivalry is dead”, but apparently it isn’t as dead as I once thought.

I learned a valuable lesson from my readers in this regard; not so much on the concept of chivalry and whether it still exists in the world or not, but that some readers still enjoy the brave and loyal hero character, flaws or not. ¬†I wrote Marcus into the story thinking I’d be the only one who liked him, but I was wrong. ¬†I’m not the only one who likes good and chivalrous¬†heroes. ¬†Other people do, too.

I’ll admit this makes me happy as my plans for Marcus in “The Ripple Affair” series were apparently on the right track. ¬†I planned on giving him a bigger role in the story, and now that I know readers like him, it gives me that much more confidence in the stories to come. ¬†I won’t reveal much on what happens later on in the series, but I will reveal that Marcus is going to have a very big role coming up and his past will be revealed in the up and coming Book Two, “Reign of Change.”

Oh! ¬†One more thing. ¬†The Kindle version of “The Ripple Affair” has been uploaded and is available for purchase at $2.99. ¬†Right now, Amazon is in the process of linking the Kindle version and paperback version on their site, so if you type “The Ripple Affair” in the search box, you might not see it (the linking process usually takes 1-3 days.) ¬†A link to the Kindle version of the book can be found here.

Thanks and have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone!

How My Minor Character Didn’t Listen to Me

I love playing The Sims.

There’s just something so oddly entertaining about taking control of a character, creating a story, and then telling them what to do. ¬†One Sim skips work to swim all day while the other practically lives at the office. ¬†Another Sim flirts with every person that walks in the room while the other stays faithful to that one, special love. ¬†One Sim is lucky and gets everything handed to him easily while the other Sim gets a shock just for trying to fix the kitchen sink.

But if you’ve ever played the Sims, you know that sometimes the Sim doesn’t follow your command. ¬†Yes, that Sim will purposely skip eating dinner and will near themselves to starvation just so they can binge watch the television for ten hours straight. ¬†No matter how many times you tell them they must eat that macaroni and cheese to live, somehow the news is more important.

I’ve found in writing that my characters must think they’re Sims. ¬†No matter what I tell them to do-what to say, how to act, or where to go-they somehow don’t listen. ¬†They somehow go off on their own accord, even if it’s a bad idea.

Perhaps you’ve had it happen in your story. ¬†You’re writing a scene and the plot is unfolding perfectly. ¬†Everything is going to plan and you can’t help but pleased at how smoothly everything is going for once!

And then it happens. ¬†As you are writing, your character does something drastic and strays from the original plan. ¬†The story changes and suddenly chaos erupts as everything you thought your story was going to tell is thrown out the window because the character didn’t listen.

It happened to me recently as I was writing the second book in my series. ¬†Everything was good until I started writing a scene with a certain minor character. ¬†As I was writing, oblivious to the world around me, an idea popped into my head, and before I could rationally think the character’s actions out, it ended up on paper. ¬†A new scene, a new plot point, and a twist that suddenly turned the story upside down.

All because the minor character didn’t follow the original plan.

I joke, of course, that my minor character had a mind of his/her own, but how many times (as writers) have we been in this predicament? ¬†When the story doesn’t go to plan and suddenly a new story emerges in the middle of writing. ¬†It’s frustrating for me at times when it happens, as I’m the kind of writer who enjoys planning things, but far too often I find the story moving away from the plan and creating its own unique path.

And in this situation, it wasn’t a bad thing. ¬†Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a plot twist was developed that gave a whole new meaning to the series. ¬†Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a once minor character suddenly developed a major role that basically altered the future for everyone in the story. ¬†Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a typical story soon became deeper and more involved (and in my opinion, more interesting).

When I play¬†The Sims, allowing my Sims to take the reins of their own free will doesn’t always produce good choices (I’m still waiting on that one Sim to eat the macaroni and cheese.) ¬†But sometimes, as writers, when we allow our story to “write itself”, so to say, the product can be good. ¬†Maybe even great. ¬†It’s good to stick to a plan, but I’ve found in my own writing it’s even better to be open to spontaneity as well. ¬†Inspiration and creativity are rarely on a schedule, and when it arrives you can’t help but take advantage of it.

Even if it makes your minor character not listen to the plan.

Sherlock and Sentimentality: A Lesson on Character Development

I admit that with the Sherlock Series 3 premiere just a few days away, I’m sort of going on a Sherlock binge, so forgive me for my latest post being an ode to Sherlock fans. ¬†ūüôā

I’ve only become a recent fan after being wowed by Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in Star Trek: Into Darkness¬†and Martin Freeman’s work in¬†The Hobbit, and since I’m prone to watch BBC television anyways (thank you,¬†Dr. Who¬†and¬†Robin Hood),¬†it was only natural I’d become “Sherlocked” after watching the first episode. ¬†Two days and a boat load of popcorn later after viewing¬†A Study in Pink, I had both series’ finished and have been patiently waiting for Series 3 ever since.

But one of the things I love about the Sherlock show (besides the amazing acting) is the character of Sherlock himself. ¬†Yes, he’s quirky, brilliant, and quick, and that makes him stand out as a character, but what enamored me the most with him is the¬†growth¬†he goes through as the series progresses.

When we first see Sherlock in¬†A Study in Pink, he’s a bit of a loner. ¬†He doesn’t have many friends. ¬†He isn’t on the best of terms with his brother. ¬†His ability to relate to people is questioned by everyone around him. ¬†He’s almost seen as this cold-hearted, un-compassionate genius who loves nothing but solving cases. ¬†The guy left poor Watson in the middle of a street, for crying out loud. ¬†But by the time we see him in¬†Reichenbach Fall, we see a different Sherlock than what we saw in the beginning. ¬†We see him teary and risking everything for the sake of the few friends he has. ¬†As the series progressed between episodes, we saw Sherlock slowly transform from a cold piece of brilliance to someone who really does have a heart buried beneath the intelligence. ¬†Grant it, he’s still not as sentimental as Watson, and probably never will be, but if there’s anything we’ve learned at the end of¬†Reichenbach, we’ve learned Sherlock really does care. ¬†(He just may not know how to show it properly.) ¬†In essence, his character developed over time. ¬†He grew in his interactions with others.

Character growth, or development, is essential to story. ¬†As an audience, we want to see that the hero (or even villain) has grown and learned his/her lesson or has become a better person in the end. ¬†A character who hasn’t experienced growth simply remains the same and may leave the reader or viewer unfulfilled with the story.

I’m still hearing from fans about their reaction to the character of Loki in¬†Thor 2: The Dark World. ¬†Though I enjoyed the film, I can see the point of many fans when they say the last scene involving Loki and Thor (*spoiler* throne room *spoiler*) felt like an incomplete ending to Loki’s character growth. ¬†In¬†Thor, he was seen as the misunderstood brother just wanting to be Thor’s equal. ¬†In¬†The Avengers,¬† he was the maniacal villain. ¬†In¬†Thor 2, he’s at his lowest point, but this time finally finds redemption and reconciliation with his brother.
At least until the last scene-because when you see that, then you start to question everything he’s done in the film.
For some, this was a brilliant move on the writer’s part. ¬†It keeps Loki’s true character in the dark and gives him a sense of mystery, strengthening his position as one of Marvel’s best villains. ¬†But for other fans wanting to see growth, this left Loki’s character incomplete and inconsistent, and that left them somewhat unsatisfied with the film. ¬†Whether it was a good move or not is still up to debate, but the point it makes about character development still sticks. ¬†Character growth matters.
So as Sherlock Series 3 approaches, I’m curious to see how Sherlock’s character will continue to grow. ¬†Will he become more sentimental? ¬†Or will he just finally learn to be nice to Molly? ¬†Only time will tell…

Loki 2, the Dark World: Why Minor Characters Matter

Spoilers ahead for Thor 2: The Dark World.  Ye have been warned.

So last weekend as part of a “get off the computer and actually go do something fun” campaign, the family and I decided to go see a movie which happened to be (you guessed it), Thor 2. ¬†I was going into the film fully-spoiled thanks to Tumblr and friends, so I knew the fates of Frigga, Loki, Thor, and Jane and the questionable ending (?) of Odin. ¬†But what I noticed after the seeing the film, and seeing my family’s reactions as they were completely unaware of the Thor universe prior to the second movie, was how popular the “minor” characters were as compared to the major characters.

And when I say “minor” characters, I mean predominantly Loki.

Yeah, I know. ¬†The guy’s got a lot of fans and haters, but if there’s one thing I’ll admit about him in this film, it was that he nailed it. ¬†He was humorous, tragic, charming, deceptive, and so ambiguous that it left me wondering in the end just who’s side he’s really on. ¬†I may not be a professional when it comes to creating good characters, but whoever wrote him in this light did a darn good job.

Even my Mom, who received a crash course in Marvel Thor lore five minutes before the movie, left the theatre thinking Loki was the best character there. ¬†She’s normally not a fan of superhero films, but this was the first one she’s seen that she said “Wow, I really liked that!” as soon as the credits stopped rolling. ¬†And she’s not the only person I’ve heard who left as a Loki fan.

What makes this so interesting to me as a student of story isn’t the fact that Loki is a popular character. ¬†It’s the fact that he’s a popular character who was in less than half the film. ¬†(I’m guessing 25 or 30% screen time?) ¬†In Thor 2, he was a minor character.

In story, the focus is often on a prime protagonist (in this case, Thor, and I would even argue Jane would be included in this since she has quite a bit of screen time) and an antagonist (Malekith). ¬†The story revolves around a central conflict which pines the hero and the villain against each other and everyone else is caught somewhere in the middle. ¬†Darcy and Selvig are running around England. ¬†Sif and the Warriors Three are are fighting to save the Nine Realms. ¬†Loki is being held in prison for crimes he’s committed in¬†The Avengers. ¬†Frigga’s trying to help everyone. ¬†Algrim is tearing the place up. ¬†And this is all happening as Malekith is trying to get the Aether out of Jane and destroy the Nine Realms, which Thor is adamant to stop.

But take the minor characters out of the story. ¬†Only leave Thor, Jane, and Malekith. ¬†What happens to the plot? ¬†Remove Darcy and Jane never finds the Aether. ¬†Remove Selvig and Malekith doesn’t get defeated. ¬†Remove Sif and the Warriors Three and Thor can’t escape with Loki out of Asgard. ¬†Remove Frigga and Jane isn’t protected. ¬†Remove Algrim and Malekith isn’t as threatening anymore. ¬†Remove Loki and Thor never survives.

Without the minor characters, you simply don’t have a story. ¬†You lose the conflict. ¬†You lose the little moments of heroism and tragedy and warmth that bring about emotion from the audience that makes them connect and remember the story. ¬†Frigga and Loki’s conversation in the prison. ¬†Frigga’s funeral. ¬†Loki dying in Thor’s arms. ¬†Loki revealing himself as Odin and sitting on the throne at the film’s end. ¬†All of these powerful scenes would be gone without minor characters.

As writer’s of story, it’s easy to get caught up in writing the hero and the villain. ¬†And that’s o.k. ¬†It’s not a bad thing to keep your protagonist and antagonist in the role they’re meant to play. ¬†But minor characters, even if they’re barely in the story, have a role to play that is just as important. ¬†They help the main characters stand or fall. ¬†They keep the conflict going or stop it completely. ¬†They bring emotion and depth to a story that one or two characters may not be able to bring all the time. ¬†In other words, they matter. ¬†Because even if they’re only “minor” characters, they still play a major role.

Who are some minor characters that you’ve found you’ve enjoyed? ¬†How did they help build the story they were in?

So a Writer and Protagonist Go Out to Lunch…

Most of you know I’ve taken up the challenge of completing NaNoWriMo 2013, an online event where writers around the globe try to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. ¬†I’m happy to say that so far things are going well and I haven’t lost my sanity (thank you, chocolate) and I am well on my way to at least getting a few pages done in my novel.

Progress!

But I’ve come across a bit of a snag that I thought I’d share with the rest of you. ¬†You see, my main character of my story-my protagonist-is unfamiliar to me. ¬†I know him about as well as I know the neighborhood cat.

And that’s a problem.

It’s not that I don’t know his story-I know where he begins, where he’s at in the middle, and where he’s going to be in the end, but I don’t¬†know him as a character. ¬†I don’t understand his traits and why he’s the way that he is. ¬†I don’t relate to him very well at all.

And that’s because he’s nothing like me.

Writer’s 101 dictates that you write what you know because, well, you¬†know it. ¬†What you know comes easy to you and you understand it better than others. ¬†You write about your past, your interests, your areas of expertise…the parts of your life that you have the most knowledge about.

When creating a fictional character, a similar principle applies. ¬†You can create characters based on certain aspects of your personality and have them go through experiences that you can relate to. ¬†This familiarity by connecting your personal life to fiction bridges a connection between author and audience. ¬†Readers will know you know what you’re talking about because your characters and details are “realistic”.

So when writing about my character-we’ll call him “G” for short (no spoilers just yet, mwa ha ha!)-it’s been a difficult task because one, his personality is very different from mine, and two, the circumstances he is placed in is something I’ve never had to deal with.

So how does a shy, history loving book nerd understand a suave, deceptive, tragically innocent jerk? ¬†(I’m the book nerd, by the way.)

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1) Look for outside opinion. ¬†Remember my beta reader, Mom? ¬†Well guess who got to read the first two chapters of the novel. ¬†That’s right-Mom. ¬†And guess who learned she had to re-write part of the first chapter because her character made no sense during one scene? ¬†Yep. ¬†It was me. ¬†But I’m grateful that my mom was honest with me. ¬†I wrote that scene not really understanding the dynamics of the character’s personality and how that would effect his relationship with others. ¬†My mom, who’s known more people than I have, understood it better because she’s so great at reading people.

2) Work that imagination.  Put your character in different scenarios and write out possible outcomes.  For example, what if you went to lunch with that character?  How would he/she react?  What conversations would come up?  What food would be ordered?  Even little details can tell you a lot about a person and reveal deeper aspects of their personalities, so see which outcomes work best and build from there.

3)¬†Give it time. ¬†Sometimes understanding of a character just takes time to develop. ¬†On another story I’ve been working on (non-NaNoWriMo related), one of my main characters started out pretty heroic. ¬†He was dashing, brave, and could easily be featured on “Survivor” and come out a winner. ¬†But as the story progressed and went through changes, my dashing hero went through a personality change. ¬†He was still brave, but became more timid, secretly bitter over past events, and was transformed into an unsung hero who people tended to ignore. ¬†This change certainly didn’t happen over night. ¬†In fact, it happened over a period of about four or five years. ¬†But the more I wrote about this character, the more I began to understand what quirks, actions, and traits connected his personality to the story at hand. ¬†And because the story changed, his traits changed, and I learned what parts of his personality worked (and didn’t work) with the overall story.

So even though I’m still on the early parts of my novel and I’m still getting to know my protagonist, I feel like I’m at least starting on the right track. ¬†Grant it, my character will probably go through a lot of changes (poor guy), but in the end, I’ll have gotten to know a character I didn’t know before.

And he’ll hopefully have a finished story by November 30.