Feb 3, 2012

Finding Voice

There were some amazing suggestions of how to know that a WIP is done from the last post.   I truly can't tell you thank you enough.  Some of you confirmed what I had been thinking and some pointed out things  never thought about before.  

I met with my CP's last night to hear what they had to say about the first chapter with my most recent tune-ups.  The things they were pointing out were great and there were still more than I wanted, but they were little things. And as I sat there, listening to what they were saying, thinking about the corrections I could make, I realized something.  

I found my Main Character.  

And I really, really like her.  

Sure, I had an idea of what I wanted her to be like, but I am finding her motivation, her sassy if-I-just-plan-this-out-it-will-be-fine attitude that is generally what gets her in trouble.  She cares about things, is annoyed about things, is frustrated but too stubborn to admit it in several situations.  

So, how did it happen?  I think it's like forming any other *real* relationship (but she is real because she and I have many conversations.  I like that she thinks that way I do about several things).  

Think about it.  When you met your current most trusted go to in a crisis laugh together and eat too much junk friend, what were your first few conversations like?  Slow moving, getting to know each other kind of experiences, right?  

I think we need to remember that more often.  There are too many times when we jump in with the idea of a character that isn't ready to discuss the mysteries of the world yet, so we think they are flat or not necessary or whatever.  

Relationships take time - both in and out of our heads.  We need to remember that when we are working through, give ourselves and our characters a chance to get to know each other, and wait until they trust us enough to show us who they really are.

What are techniques you have found to develop your characters?  Have you had any characters who surprise you with who they really are?


29 comments :

Miranda Hardy said...

Great post. Voice is so important and it's important that your main character shines above the others. I allow my characters to act out scripts in my head. I see scenes unfolding and watch how my characters handle themselves.

Rosalyn said...

Shannon Hale wrote somewhere that it's not until her 4th draft or so that she really finds her characters--and I found that to be incredibly relieving! My first drafts are often discovery drafts--and it's not until later that the characters really start to emerge with distinct voices.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

My answer is not helpful because it's "I don't know!" They just happen as I write. And then, yes, with revision, they evolve more. Certain characters have clear voices right away. Some people do a whole background sketch first - I don't do that until something has evolved first. They have to tell me who they are before I can tell them who they are, if you know what I mean!!

L.C. said...

Yes, definitely--I've found there's no substitute for just putting in the time. I'm also always surprised (and delighted) when one of my secondary characters suddenly reveals something--it makes the book feel fresh and fun and new again, which is always a good thing. :-) Thanks for the post, Tasha!

Cristina said...

I love this post sooo much! I see even in my first draft a change in my MC and I think that change comes from the countless hours we've spent together.. I know her so much better now, that she seems more and more real, and it's easier for me to figure out what her next steps are...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Interesting way to approach it. But if we treat them like real people eventually they will become real people.

Angela Cothran said...

I love asking my characters crazy questions and seeing what they have to say. Their answers ALWAYS surprise me :)

Patsy said...

It does take me a while to get to know many of my characters - others start off almost as old friends. That happens in real life too though.

Laura Josephsen said...

THIS. It's so true! Sometimes it takes a loooong time to get to know a character, and sometimes they're almost instantaneous--but I think the long time ones are more common. ;) One of my recent characters didn't really let me know all about him until the very final, ready-to-be published draft of my current novel. It took me writing about 200 pages about him in the sequel before I went, "AHA!" and I could go back and rewrite his scenes in the first book.

Writing sure is an adventure. :D

Morgan said...

Voice is so important... gosh, it obviously can make or break a book. This is one thing that I'm focusing hard on right now... making each character distinctly different in their own voice/way. It's crazy all the little details that go into crafting a story... it's more difficult than most people realize :D

Great post!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Watching them interact with the others starts to bring out their personality more. I've always started with a detailed character sheet listing strengths, weaknesses, traits, background, and dreams. It gives me a good place to start.

Mia Hayson said...

Great post! You're so right, sometimes it takes time for a character to let you in!

I think it's important to remember no two characters are the same, also. Sometimes one will give info where the other will not. And, just occasionally, I have characters that walk straight into my life.

<3

Jillian said...

What excellent advice! I've never really thought about character development this way before. It inspires me to be more patient with my currently reticent characters.

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey Tasha,

Thanks for the comments and I'm glad I'm not alone!!

Re. voice, I'm co-writing a memoir, so for now my voice is not my own, but I'm looking forward to listening to the whispers that I know are down there, deep inside me :)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A great post, I think it good that your chatacters have voices. ....different but good.

Yvonne.

RachelMaryBean said...

Great post. I hadn't thought about it that way before. :)

Gina Blechman said...

Tasha,

Thanks for finding me, fellow contributor. :-) You've got a great post here. I like to get to know my characters by putting them in different situations outside of what the story would call for. I write down random things: first love, favorite ice cream flavor, biggest secret, favorite color. Sometimes I write little journal type things or rants for my characters just to better understand their voice. Either way, I find that I rarely REALLY know my characters until after I've written the first draft and am going back to do the first read through/edit.

<3 Gina Blechman

Caitlin said...

Really great post! One thing I do to develop my characters is fill out character sheets. I made a document of information that I like to have on my characters such as name, date of birth, appearance, and the easy stuff. Then I get a little deeper into traits, motivations, and background. I keep several printed out so I can sit down to work with one whenever I need it.

Mandi said...

Couldn't agree more with this post - finding those characters is part of what makes writing so rewarding.

Thanks for dropping by my blog! Look forward to seeing more of what you have to say.

Leigh Covington said...

This is awesome Tasha. Very insightful. Character development is still something I am working on, but I do love when something happens and you get to know them even better. Those moments are so cool :)

Erin Shakespear said...

Hmmmm....how do I develop my characters? That's a great question. I don't know. They just kind of show up...

But, yes, I have had characters surprise me. And I love that! I love it when you realize they weren't who you initially thought they were but all the pieces are there for them to be who they actually are...does that make any sense? Fun post :)

acertainbook said...

Stimulating post. You're so right, it's like getting to know a real person.
I find my characters develop of their own accord, and bit by bit or chapter after chapter, I learn something new about them. A lot of the time they surprise me - like what they say, their attitude, their thoughts and so on. To begin with, I have a vague idea of my character, but they usually get fleshed out as the story progresses.

By the way, thanks for following me. Please jump over to my latest post for a blog award! :)

Joanne Ganley

Catherine Noble said...

I know exactly what you mean! I'm not a fan of those "character questionnaire sheets" that require you to know your character's favourite breakfast cereal before you've even finished your first chapter. All my characters were different at the end of my first draft, to what they started out as.

Great post! :)

Annalisa Crawford said...

My characters sometimes appear fully formed on the page. The one I worked hardest on was a combination of two lads I had crushes on when I was at school. And one character surprised me by being a serial killer - who knew!

I do have first drafts where I read through and can't distinguish the separate characters at all - that's hard work, and a bit deflating.

Misha Gericke said...

I work from the assumption that all my characters are fully formed and then spend my rough draft getting to know them.

By the time I'm done with the rewrites, we're best friends. :-D

Deana said...

I've found that when I do my read through after the first draft I have a chance to get to know my characters more. After that I usually end up changing, adding or taking things away because I know them better by that time.
Great post!

Cassie Mae said...

I make sure my characters talk like real people, and not like 'writers', if that makes sense. Like, not everyone has a thesaurus right at their fingertips, so when my character can't think of a way to say something, she's just gonna say she doesn't know how to describe it, lol.

Of course, this is my character. Another character may have a much wider vocabulary, lol :)

Melissa Sugar said...

Very early on I write a few journal pages as if I am the character. This has always helped me get to know my characters.

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