I recently picked up a book on acting and directing actors and found some tips you may find useful for developing characters. One of the main ideas is to try to think of yourself and how you are similar to the character. With that in mind as you fill out a character sheet, answer the questions in regard to yourself first. This may help you think of the character in a deeper way. Then ask the tough questions.
What unpleasant truths is the character forced to deal with?
What is the character most knowledgeable about?
How does he/she use their intelligence?
Is the character protecting himself from past pains or avoiding situations because of his past?
What makes him/her laugh?
What makes him/her loose their sense of humor?
What is their blind spot?
What are they doing in this scene that they have never done before?
In what way is this character an artist?
These are the questions I found were most often left out of character sheets that really help me understand the character more. By answering the questions of myself I am more able to relate to my characters and write them more honestly. They seem more human to me when I put little pieces of myself in there with them.
Today I was assigned to stop and listen to the world for seven minutes. This was quite the eye opening thing for me and I ended up continuing to listen on my walk home. I realized there were many sounds I didn’t notice at all before. Taking the time to listen to the world around me helped me write better sentences today. For example:
The hum of motors filled my ears as the cars drove past.
The hum of the little cars was interrupted by rumbling of a truck that sped by.
One of these is much more unique than the other. By listening I found that different shoes make unique sounds that I can use as foreshadowing. I also ended up writing a whole paragraph based off of the lack of sound in some situations. So if you have the chance, instead of ease dropping, just stop and listen to what you usually won’t hear.
This is how I have outlined and organized the content for my most recent novel, Own Most. It is making the process of writing go much faster and easier than it ever has before. By this I mean 20,000 words in 8 days of work, which is much faster than I ever have before. I hope this helps you too.
1 General Plot
This is where I outline the overarching ideas of the book such as plot twists, high action points, and other need to know information
2 Useful Links
This is where I paste the websites that I used for research as well as location inspiration. In general, things I want to get back to later.
3 Character Inspiration
These are pictures that I have pasted right into the document. They show the some of the way I want the character to come across on the page as well as their physicality so I won’t have to hunt through the entire book to find someone’s eye color.
4 Original Draft
This is any scene I had written out ahead of time no matter where it fell in the book. I might have transcribed it from the written word or I might have twenty pages I typed out when I first got really excited about my idea. This is a good way for me to grab text I might be able to reuse without me having to stop and dig through documents to find it.
5 Big Ideas
I’ll have a short list of things I want to convey over the course of the book written out so that I never lose sight of what is important.
6 Plot Points
And here we have the dreaded plot points. I will set out each huge turning point first. I’ll usually have 10- 12 because that’s the number of chapters I usually have. Each of these high points represents the chapter break where I’ll leave the reader wanting more. Then I fill in bullet points of what needs to come between them to create a cohesive story. The key with this is detail. The more individual points I have, the faster I’ll be able to write.
7 Dull Moment Fixers
These are some ideas that I know I want in the book but don’t know where to put them. If I have any symbolism, themes, or foreshadowing I need to reiterate, I’ll put them here. The idea is, if I don’t know what to put on the page next, I can turn to one of these things and keep my momentum up.
This is just what I have been using. I hope you found something here that will help you write your first draft faster!
I will try to people watch every hour
I will try to learn something every day
I will try to write a blog post every week
I will try to send out an email every fortnight
I will try to read a well-written book every month
I will try to speak with an industry professional semiannually
I will try to sell my book this year
I will do it