Friday, February 11, 2011

Building Layers to Enhance Characters

I've been working on characterization to understand the motivations behind my characters. After doing so, I've developed a short paragraph around my heroine's journey.

The heroine in my upcoming release hasn't had a happy childhood. Raised in a series of foster homes, she begins to foster her own false beliefs that she will never be good enough to be loved. Her life becomes one of running away from problems, rather than facing adversity. Friends? Not really. Just acquaintances she keeps distanced from her heart. When she's involved in a terrible tragedy, guilt piles another level of protection around her. Once again she runs away and lands straight into the arms of a man who has an open and caring heart. Stranded in a small town where love is given unconditionally, she begins to hope for things she's never dared to dream. As the layers of her heart slowly peel away, she experiences the joy of being loved.Then her past roars into her new life and she regresses to flight mode. But, when a little girl becomes the target of her nemesis, she realizes she must stand and fight. For the first time in her life, someone else means more to her than running away.

I'd strongly suggest to every other pantser like me that you take time to develop your heroine's/hero's story. What makes her who she is? What has shaped her growing up years? When I first began writing I sketched out details like what color of eyes, hair, stature, mother and father, other family, favorite color, hobbies, etc. I'm not saying these aren't important, but those things weren't enough to really understand my characters. I bumbled along, learning as I wrote, and found the "dreaded middle" a horrible thing to encounter. Many times I remain stuck, trying to add "things" to move the story along. Eventually I'd get there, but along the way I lost a lot of sleep. Character templates that ask questions just don't do it for me.

I've tried, but what I come up with is superficial. If those work for you, hurray! You don't need to use my method. Well, not my method, but that of author Rachel Ballon in BREATHING LIFE INTO YOUR CHARACTERS. This book is an invaluable tool to me. For the very first time, I'm getting to know my characters intimately. This makes my writing richer and I'm hoping makes my characters jump off the page.

What tools do you use in your writing endeavors?

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