Recognize these characters? Remember how irate poor Wile E Coyote would become with Road Runner? No matter what he did he never succeeded in catching his ‘dinner’. Beep, beep would ring out as yet another ACME kit damaged the coyote instead of the bird. It was truly a lesson in perseverance. No matter how many times the speedy bird escaped the coyote he would try, try, try again. I actually went past a road sign to Acme on my way to Canmore last weekend, wished I could have made a detour just for the fun of it.
The art of creating such lovable and memorable characters is what every author strives for. We hope our creations will stay in our readers minds long after the last page has turned. Character profiles and back story play a large part in ensuring our characters are well rounded and believable. We delve into their personality type seeking out traits and habits to make them react to their crisis situations in an authentic way.
Some may be based on people we know or a combination of several or from people watching – an author’s favorite pastime. As writers situations, overheard conversation and life in general is a constant source of inspiration.
Do you make up scenarios for people you observe? Have any made it in to a manuscript?
When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters. Here are a few examples but obviously you can tailor make your own depending on your genre.
With such a guideline our characters become clearer. A lot of the details will never reach the pages of our manuscript but knowing our characters well makes for a more believable personality as they struggle through the trials and tribulations we subject them to. As most of you know I am a ‘free flow’ writer so everything is by the seat of my pants until the editing starts. This is where I find character flaws or great character traits that I can correct or build upon. My characters live with me during the writing process and usually lead me in directions I had never considered – I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As these personalities gain strength they become more ‘real’ and that is the moment their true selves appear.
Do you have any tips regarding character profiles or character building?
As writers we love to be immersed in our own creations -weaving plots, planning and following story arcs, creating character profiles as well as their trials and tribulations. Our minds are full of questions : What happens next? How would my character react? Is that plausible or believable? Can I improve on that scene? Have I shown not told? Is there too much exposition? Would the reader have enough description to envisage the scene?
Graph – speedofcreativity.com
All these questions need to be answered but not when we are writing the first draft. This initial phase is the most enjoyable part of creating a story. Remember to give your inner editor time off enabling you to create freely and get the basic story line written. Once you have finished, the ‘real’ work starts. Continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming. Where should you start?
Once the story is complete put it to one side and go onto new projects. Leave it for a month or more (I’ve left two projects for nearly 6 months). When you go back to re-read you have fresh eyes giving you new insights. Your revision process may be to correct everything above as you read each page or you could concentrate on one item at a time, re-reading each time giving you a particular focus. This second method does lean itself to sharpening the process as you are not trying to ‘spot’ numerous revision types at the same time. With your editing done let your favored readers have it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. No matter how many times you or your beta readers go through the manuscript there will always be a word missed, misspelt or a continuity slip up. How do you make your manuscript as good as it can be?
Image – Library of Poetry
A professional editor – if you can afford one – is a good investment. However, one trick that may work for you in finding those elusive errors is to read the book from back to front page by page. Another is to read it out aloud to yourself or a understanding friend (a glass or two of wine helps with this one!) A missed word is very obvious with this technique.
When editing there may be sentences or even whole paragraphs that you know need to be revised or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line or scene. Deleting these is hard – it is your creation and your words were written through hard work. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. They are a writer’s jetsam so to speak, which is my link to today’s calendar word. I had to squeeze it in somewhere!
Jetsam Definition: unwanted material or goods that have been thrown overboard from a ship and washed ashore.
Photo by Verity Cridland
These ejected words from our ‘ship’ may float on our hard drives or become washed up in a document folder but wherever they end up they are part of our creative soul and never truly lost. We may pick them up from the shore in the future to use in another piece of writing or they may stay hidden in the depths of our files. No matter which scenario occurs, they are born of you and precious all the same.
As writers we endeavor to produce the very best manuscript or article we can and that is why we endure the editing process. Without this method of correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.
I wish you fortitude in your process to make your work excel and delight your readers.