Monday, January 24, 2011

Pre-Writing Prep: How Characters Change

For the past few days, I've been getting ready to begin reworking one of my novels. A better structure for the story came to me all at once one day, and since then, it's been swirling in the back of my mind. I decided to put some of what I was thinking about on paper.

In the past, I've always felt that my characters emerge as they react to story events. But this time, I'm thinking more about what my characters want and what will make it hard for them to get it before I start writing. (I'm taking some advice from the Plot Whisperer on her YouTube plot series.) I'm also thinking about how my characters will change and what traits will help them or block them from making that change. Even though I know I'll probably be surprised by the way events in the story emerge and affect my characters, at least I'll have a starting point to guide my rewrites.

This made me think about how well I've shown my main character's wants and obstacles in my other novels. I think I'm much better at creating a strong best friend or sidekick. Maybe that's easier! This time, I'm going to focus more on the main character.

What do you need to know about your characters before you begin writing?

P.S. To go along with my new project, I decided to change the look of my blog to create some positive energy for my writing mind space.


  1. I've been hanging out with the Plot Whisperer too, lately. :-) For me, what I need to know about my characters before I write is twofold. I need to know: what they want (the tangible goal) and what their controlling belief is (what is driving their actions). Once I have those things nailed down, the plot tends to move more smoothly.

    Love the new look of the blog, by the way. Nothing like shaking things up to shake things up.

  2. I like the new look! It's great. I try to know my character's flaws and emotional backstory before I start. A lot more comes as I write.

  3. I'm just getting to know my new MC through character journals, etc., so our road together has just begun. But I'll be checking out Plot Whisperer's You Tube plot series--thanks for the link!

    Your new blog look is neat, btw...

  4. I've been meaning to checkout the Plot Whisperer's YouTube series.

    Good luck on the writing.

    LOVES the blue. :)

  5. Thanks, everyone. Sometimes hearing information (aka the Plot Whisperer) gives you a different perspective, even though it might be similar to what you read somewhere else.

    Laura, I sometimes have trouble creating flaws for my characters, and find they don't emerge until I write about them. But I can see it's a lot easier to think about it in advance.

    Car, it sounds like you're thinking on both the level of the dramatic plot and the emotional story. That's something I definitely need to think more about at the beginning.

  6. Sounds like you are making some great progress with your book!

    I often start writing with just a glimmer of inspiration, but once my character reveals herself on the page, then I have to take a break and figure out the what the problem/issue is that my character is confronted with in the story, how the problem will be resolved, and how that is going to change my character internally. I can't write in earnest on the story until I know that.


  7. I write journal entries as my characters before I write. I want to have a strong sense of their past, present, and future before I write.

  8. Medeia, it sounds like you've discovered a good way to get to know your characters.

    Elisabeth, I like how you write and then go back to planning. I think the writing process needs to be flexible and fluid.


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