If you struggle with creating believable characters or wrestle with authorial plot manipulation than you should have been at the last meeting. If not, well congrats – you’re awesome, but for the rest of us it was chock full o’ handy info on developing believable, realistic characters who will drive your plot.

Jude Wilner not only let us peek through the window of her character development process but she also shared her character chart with us. Hers goes beyond the basic information (name, eye colour, height, weight) and delves into all the dirty stuff that makes her (your character, not Jude) who she is. I’m not going to reproduce it here because you can find examples of character charts all over the internet and you’re probably better off creating your own anyway.  

The first step is to identify the character’s attributes. That’s the easy part. The second step is to justify them.  It’s all well and good to have a list of quirks for each of your characters but you have to know why they behave in that certain way. Does she bite her nails? Does she ride a motorcycle? Does she hate cats? Awesome, but why? Despite everything my dad would have me believe ‘because I said so’ just isn’t going to cut it.

Your experiences have shaped you and it should be the same for your character. Me? I have a paralyzing fear of stairs with open risers. Why? I suspect it’s because when I was two I fell down a flight and cut my face open. Those of you who have met me may have seen the scar. I don’t notice it anymore but it’s there and it has a story and if you ever see me clinging for dear life to a filthy banister while I take painfully cautious steps up a flight of open-riser stairs, you’ll know why. Interestingly, my fear of open-riser stairs overrides my fear of pathogens on banisters. My fear of zombies would probably override my fear of open-riser stairs but I’d like to not ever have to find out for sure. 

Anyway, the take home message is that real people are complex, even the boring ones, and your characters should be too. If you create strong, believable characters they’ll practically write their own story.

A more detailed summary of Thursday’s presentation will be included in the next Connections newsletter. If you ask Jude nicely she might make a copy of her character chart available on the website or via email.

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In other news, there are tumbleweeds blowing through the blog submission inbox. This is going to be a pretty frickin’ boring place if no one else contributes.  If I don’t get some volunteers here I’m going to have to start pestering people and that will involve a whole bunch of swears and prolonged moments of awkward, accusatory eye contact.

Here’s a picture of Bon Jovi giving you the stink eye for not participating in this whole blogging thing yet.

Photo Credit: Anthony G. Moore/Photorazzi

4 comments on “Why? Because I said so, dammit!”

  1. Excellent summary of Jude’s talk! 🙂

    I admit, though, that I was stuck at the beginning of her talk… I kept asking myself: How did my characters get their names? I’m still working on that one.

  2. Excellent summary of Jude’s talk! 🙂

    I admit, though, that I was stuck at the beginning of her talk… I kept asking myself: How did my characters get their names? I’m still working on that one.

  3. I knew we talked of having this blog but this is the first time I tuned in and had a look. Great job, R! I’m reading this book 90 Days to Your Novel and so far it’s a great book, I’ll either do a report in the Connections on it or, post some highlights on it here when I finish 🙂

  4. I knew we talked of having this blog but this is the first time I tuned in and had a look. Great job, R! I’m reading this book 90 Days to Your Novel and so far it’s a great book, I’ll either do a report in the Connections on it or, post some highlights on it here when I finish 🙂

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