Category Archives: Closet Mad Scientist

The Science of Interesting Characters

Or why I interview my characters as part of the planning process.

One day I was trying to figure out what made some of my characters more interesting than others. To help me figure out how the character’s ticked, I embarked on a snowball experiment. It’s not as fancy as it sounds. I literally threw snowballs at some of my characters. Here’s what transpired…

Reagan: Started a full-fledged snowball war, complete with side-splitting laughter on both sides.
Adria: Laughed at the notion that anyone would have the guts to throw a snowball at her.
Felix: Laughed when it hit him, assuming it was some child who threw it at him.
Demarco: Pointed his scary sword at me and pretended to threaten me with it.

Riley: Glowered, looked around, and stomped off, assuming whoever threw it was picking on her.
Sebastian: Didn’t even notice as it hit his coattails, melted, and dried so quickly it was like it was never there. Then he looked up, genuinely confused as to why I was staring at him.
Ursula: Caught it, bit into it like an apple, and dared me to throw another one.

Saira: Frowned deeply and buried her nose deeper into her psychology notes.

Beta: Got so excited because she’s never seen white snow. 
Petra: Gave me props for hitting her and one-upped me by sending one back with an electric current inside that shocked me when it hit me and then she laughed maniacally.

Caroline: Freaked out, ran back inside her house, and locked the door.

Everyone’s reactions made perfect sense to me. I didn’t have to think about what they’d do. I hit them and they reacted. But as you can see, some of them are clearly more interesting (and fun) than others.

What makes characters interesting is what makes people interesting. They have a personality, a point of view, a chip on their shoulder, something they’re passionate about, a mysterious past…they make you feel something. They make you laugh. They make you angry. They illicit some kind of response.

I get a lot of compliments on the villains in my stories. (takes bow) There’s a reason for that though. It’s not because I’m some super fabulous writer. (Though I am, Lol!) It’s because those characters rock my world. And the excitement I have for them translates to the page. That tall, dark, & sexy vampire in the corner….the one I love SO much. The second he steps into the page, he’s dripping with awesomeness. (Though he laughs at my use of the word awesome.) The words I choose to describe him, the words that come out of his mouth – it’s all him from the tip of his golden hair to his charming and arrogant core. He’s awesome and interesting to the reader because he’s awesome and interesting to me.

If you feel like your MC is being overshadowed, guess what? They are. 
If you’re MC is getting on YOUR nerves, they’ll get on someone else’s.
If you feel like your MC has no fire inside of them, they’re not going to magically get fire when you start writing about them.
Likewise, if you’re crazy about your hero, someone else will be, too. 

If that dirt-smudged guy in the ice cream truck creeps you out, he’ll creep out someone else.
And if you cry bitter tears when Grandma dies, someone else may cry, as well. (Oh, I hope!) Lol!

This is why I interview my characters. If I’m going to portray accurately, I need to know how they think. They’re not always chatty, sometimes we just do bios. (Sometimes I throw stuff at them, especially when they won’t talk.) But I do this because I refuse to start a story until I can see the main cast clearly in my head. I want to see the fire in their eyes when I say their names. When I move on without this clarity, I always, always regret it. I like it when they get chatty, though I do have to cut them off sometimes. I try to keep my bios and interviews to a page and half max. If I need a refresher, I don’t want to have to reread five pages for each character, you know. 

And interviewing them is fun! I had this woman immediately start defending her actions before I even said anything. I found her guilty conscience fascinating, and I was really able to highlight that in her part of the story. I did not throw a snowball at her. She lives in the desert, it might have caused a severe anxiety attack. 
On a random note: I also keep a list of character descriptions in my composition book and on he computer for quick reference. I have the rather bad habit of forgetting what color people’s eyes are sometimes.

New Project & Novel Trackers!

I found this awesome, awesome novel tracker thingie here. It’s a completely customizable 30 day spreadsheet so you can use it outside of NaNoWriMo. She has one for tracking your progress over the course of a year from month to month, as well. I encourage everyone to check it out. I played around with it… Continue Reading