Get to Know Your Characters

I’ve realized that I don’t do enough thoughtful posts. Lately I’ve been posting book reviews, TTTs, and the like. So I’m going to try to write at least one thoughtful post, about writing or reading, every week.

Guess what? It’s NaNoPrepMo!

And that means that this is the month to prepare for your NaNo novel. [Comment below if you’re doing NaNoWriMo!] Outline, plan your characters, come up with some plot twists, et cetera. I’m usually a panster, a.k.a. someone who jumps right in, no planning at all. Take a look at this handy post I found on the NaNoWriMo forums:

If you aren’t familiar with the terms, the general definitions are as follows:

Plotter: The most straightforward of all writers. This writer plans out the entire manuscript. Perhaps he creates a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the novel. Maybe she positions sticky-notes on her wall, like a shrine to the novel it will become. Or maybe he’s like J.K. Rowling and uses a spreadsheet to keep the story–complete with subplots–straight. Basically, the plotter, as the name would imply, carefully constructs the plot before typing the first word.

Pantser: The anti-plotter. This writer likes to “fly by the seat of his pants,” hence the name. She is most likely to throw caution to the wind–and never mind if the heroine’s name changes from Keith to Kevin halfway through the third chapter.

Plantser: The Plotter/Pantser hybrid. This writer makes rough notes as a general guide but prefers to keep a more fluid outline. This could be anything from index cards on which major plot points are written, to a rough idea of what will make up the beginning, middle, and ending, to detailed character sketches and a clear story question and desired outcome–with everything subject to change.

-E. M. Caines

So I’m a pantser. When I started Nakoma, I honestly didn’t know what would happen next, which characters would come in, whom would betray whom–I trusted my instincts and basically, in the first chapter, wrote a biography of Nakoma, the MC.

But back to the point.

For NaNoWriMo 2014, I’m attempting to lean more in the direction of a plotter. I’ve come up with a plot, thirteen major characters, and even have a nice little folder for all of my planning and plotting.

My folder. [Yes, that is a NaNoWriMo background. :) ]


My documents inside my folder. From top to bottom: Characters; Novel; NYC; Timeline.












So I’m very organized. But I didn’t write this post today to tell you about organization [Another time, perhaps.]. This post is about your characters.

One of the ways to prepare for NaNoWriMo, or Camp NaNoWriMo, or any new project [particularly a novel] is to get to know your characters. I came up with three steps to get to know your characters. I’ve just completed Step 2.

  1. Make a list of your top ten to fifteen characters. Write down their names and their relationships to the MC(s). Include the MC in this list. You don’t have to put down much information or put any thought into it. You can change the characters’ names later on if you wish. I know I did. And it doesn’t have to be on a computer in your special documents; I wrote my list in an old notebook while camping. Whenever inspiration strikes, write it down. Here’s my list: nanoprepmoscan1
  2. “Ask” them questions/list facts about them. To get to know your characters better, find out information about them. You can list the questions and put down answers like the character would, or do a profile of them. I also find it helpful to search the internet for images that fit your characters. You can type in “girl with brown hair and blue eyes” and get thousands of results. Most of them will be selfies. Here is the profile for my main character, Cait: bloggishcaitFor this novel, most of the characters are bloggers, which is why I added “Blog” and “Username.” Here are some questions to ask your characters: name, age, birthday, hair, eyes, height, hobbies, nickname, family members, pets, where they live, favorites [color, band, food etc.].
  3. Put them in dialogue pieces together. I have yet to do this, but I can’t wait. Put two or more of your characters in a room together, and see what happens. Let them talk. Are they sassy and sarcastic? Let them. Do they want to date the other character? Let them flirt. Are they scared? Show how they’re scared. Let the characters do it all; you just have to write it down. Don’t force them to be one way or another. Of course, you’re their creator, so ultimately it’s up to you. Start with a basic idea, and let it go from there.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughtful post. :) I’m off to type up a thing for my mom. Do you use these steps? Will you in the future? And should I write more posts about writing? Tell me in the comments below.



9 thoughts on “Get to Know Your Characters

  1. More posts! Although I’ve always been a pantser, it’s still interesting to learn how to plan.

    Since you’ve done NaNoWriMo before, do you prefer the YWP or just the regular? I can’t decide which one to sign up for….

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