Know Your Character

As I’ve said before, I’m working on my own personal project at the moment.

I’ve been thinking about this story for almost 4 years now, the characters, the milieu and the main plot. I’ve done well in writing, coming up to about 25,000 words in 3 weeks when quite suddenly, I hit a standstill. I reread some of my chapters and realized that the character had responded all wrong. Also, it had pushed an interaction with another character that I didn’t want, and cut out the importance of the character that I actually needed the main role to be.

This was all very well and exciting at first but then I realized the reason this had happened was because I didn’t have the character act in the situation as she rightfully should’ve. I went out of character and had her become something her set (and needed) personality wouldn’t allow. This was why I got stuck.

Couple of months ago (ee gad, more than a year), I spoke about how it is very important to make sure that your character isn’t a Mary-Sue and I’d like to expand on that idea by saying that you have to make sure who your character is. This week, I read a post from Kim Harrison which briefly mentioned the myers/briggs personality test and, on impulse, I went and googled it.

It’s opened up a whole new world of character development for me and, as I had submitted my characters to the Mary-Sue test, I’m now going to submit them all to this test I found on the web so that I can correctly judge their course of action and behavior. (I took it myself and the result was very interesting!)

The thing is that the best stories’ characters are believable and I think that my most disappointing moments in books happened when a character did something which I felt was completely (and I mean completely) out of character. It crushes the reader and makes it less believable.

And to me, writing a story that is believable – with real emotions and responses, is the most important focus.

So, I’d suggest that you take these tests and spend some time developing not only your main characters, but your side characters as well and try to understand how they would interact with each other.

So far, it’s working for me.


2 thoughts on “Know Your Character

  1. jenella13 January 29, 2011 / 8:43 pm

    I find personality tests more useful than the Mary-Sue Limus test when it comes to writing. One can get really out of focus when they are trying to beat a number on a test. I read this article on Helium on day about characters and the author enlightened me one what I really needed to worry about in character creation and that was having a character that was realistic and not shallow.
    I’ve been at that place where a main character was no longer the character he needed to be.
    I spend a great deal of time working him out in the means of writing character sketches. Which is nothing but an exercise in which you describe a character from physical description to their personality. I took it a bit further and I would pick a subject and write what that character would say. I would put him in a situation and write down how he felt and the way he reacted. I would flip the perspective and have another character to describe his reaction to it. That was really helpful for me.

    • Alyssa February 2, 2011 / 10:08 pm

      🙂 I use the Mary-Sue as a guide only as it’s… Pretty strict. The Personality Tests are a whole new concept for me. Strangely enough, it just never occurred to me to use it.

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