September 21, 2011

new book, new characters

I started planning a new book this weekend. Consequently, I find it difficult to focus on anything else.

It all begins with the character.  As previously discussed, story is what happens to a character. Having characters an audience wants to read about makes the difference. The story written should be about the transformation a character undergoes during a period of time.

I am in the early planning stages, and right now I am getting to know my main character in addition to the supporting cast. I don't necessarily need to know what each person had for breakfast or what they received for Christmas when they were five (unless it is critical to the story).

What I do need to know is who my protagonist is at the beginning of the story and who she will be at the end. Here is an excerpt from a previous post about how to use this to develop a story:

An exercise I've used, thanks to the advice of another author, is to create a T-chart for the main characters, like the one pictured here. In the first column, list descriptions about where your character is in his or her life at the beginning of the story. In the second column, write where he or she is at the end of it. I typically match them up by topic.

This helps you develop the plot, because to get your character from where they are at the beginning to where they are at the end, something has to happen to them. What happens is your story.


Let's try an example for a character called Liza.


Before: Liza works for a temp agency doing filling mostly secretarial gigs at a law firm.
After:
She has an entry-level marketing assistant job for a green energy company.
Plot development:
Liza sends out 100 resumes to 100 companies and lands interviews at five companies. She is a finalist at two and wins the job with the green energy firm by giving a dynamic mock presentation and press campaign cleverly using social media.

This is where I am at with my latest book (not this example precisely). Time will play a crucial part in this story. Giving consideration to the before and after will allow me to plan the story more.

For more information, read a couple previous posts about creating characters:
•  Naming characters
•  Developing characters

Here's a question for my fellow writers: What character development do you do before telling a story?

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