Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Preparing for NaNo Mo

Character Shopping



With NaNoMo fast approaching, those of us who are planning to take the challenge have characters knocking on our brains asking to be included in our stories. While some writers have meticulously outlined their stories anxiously awaiting November first to start, others, known as pansters, go with whatever enters their head when they sit down to type.

Whichever type of writer you are, you still need characters. So where do you get them? 

I’ve been busy critiquing this week and I’ve read about every type of character from a hedgehog to an alien, to an Egyptian princess. 

WARNING: Characters that we make up in our head are usually flat. They’re one dimensional, the way we see them as we write. The trouble with dreaming up characters is that they’re NOT original.

Example. This past spring I was involved in a YA critique group at an SCBWI conference. Seven people made up our group.

Two wrote historical fiction.
One wrote paranormal.
One wrote high fantasy.
One rewrote of a fairy tale in a historical fantasy setting.
And, two wrote contemporary fiction.

I mentioned to the group that as I read their pages I was taken aback at how similar our main characters were, even though our genres were different.

Among our MC’s we had a female pirate, an Irish laundress, an evil Queen, an angel, a high school student, a mysterious girl, and a theater manager. They sound different enough, don’t they?

Well first off, only one was a male.
Six of the seven had red hair.
All of them had a stubborn streak.
And they all welcomed controversy.

And here we thought we all had different stories.

Since then I’ve taken to people watching. I always have a paper or pad with me and whether I’m sitting in the car waiting for my husband to come out of a store, or I’m sitting in a food court waiting for my order to be up, I jot down possibilities, describing them in as much detail as I can discover by watching their actions or hearing their conversations. I strongly suggest using real people as models for your characters.

Sometimes seeing is believing.

Places to find your characters:
  1. In a shopping mall.
  2. In a restaurant
  3. In the movies
  4. In a classroom
  5. On the beach.
  6. On a hike.
  7. In a grocery store.
  8. And lastly, if you live out in the country, where it becomes difficult to get to a mall or a restaurant, check out your mail. Yes, catalog models, retail store coupons, even charity flyers can offer you a picture of a character you might not have thought of on your own.

One thing is for sure. They won’t all have red hair. By the way, an editor at that same conference stated that she is tired of seeing red-headed protagonists. Do you think she read all of our first pages? J

Where do you find your characters?









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