Monday, February 13, 2012

Characterization and Such

First off, so very sorry for missing my post last week. My 18-month-old had a HORRENDOUS day last week and I was completely frazzled the whole rest of the day. :(

So, I wanted to talk about characterizations. How do you create a realistic character? Someone who your readers feel like they know?

There are INFINITE ways to do this, so I'll highlight what I've noticed in my talks with other writers to be the top three (and fellow Scribble Chickers, please feel free to fill in the gaps!!):

1. The Highly Caffeinated Version

This is the one where you sit down and for three weeks you do nothing but craft this person's entire life history. Where were they born? What was their first word? Did they have a blanket with the tabbie things or with silk? Where they attached to said blanket? And on and on until you know more about this character than you know about yourself. I've seen a lot of people who scour magazines and cut out pictures of what this character could potentially look like. I've even met people who write childhood journals for their characters before even getting to writing the story they're hoping to write. It's very, very thorough.

2. The Half-Caf Version

This is one that I've played with a little bit. Basically, you have a long running list of facts about your character - height, weight, hair color, eye color, hair style, favorite drink, pet peeves, etc. Then, as you're writing, you can reference your list or add to it. Say you're writing a scene and you discover that your character hates pickles. Write it down. I've heard of people cutting out magazine pictures for this as well and just gluing it to the back of the list. (And, just because I heart you guys, I've written up a list of a few common things to want to know about your character and saved it as a PDF file here. Happy Valentine's Day! ;) )

3. The Decaf Version

Honestly, this is my favorite way of characterizing. I sit down with a basic thought of who I want to write about and I start writing. I find out things as I go along. So, a lot of times, I'll be in the middle of the book before I even know what color eyes my character has or that they have a fear of feather comforters because they were attacked by a duck as a young child. This version is by far the easiest and that's probably why I like it. I enjoy learning about my character as I go along - I get bored easily if I already know everything about them.

And there you have it! The three most common ways to characterize. How do you create your characters? What method do you prefer/practice?

Next week, I'll get a little more into the nitty gritty of writing characters - how do you make them "sound" real??

Have a great Valentine's Day tomorrow!


  1. Great posts, coffee-mama! I think you've nailed it, covered them all. I prefer to stick with the Half-Caf version, myself, because my personality gets overwhelmed if I have to play "what if" too much along the way or if I have to go back and add/change a lot later. Remember, I'm the one-draft only mutant writer...ha

    Sorry about the bad day last week! I would say it gets better're getting closer to the 2's. So I won't lie! I'll just say you have plenty of love to give him and plenty of fingers (ten!) to point to the time-out corner ;)

    For mine, the months before the 2nd birthday was the worst, the 2's were off and on difficult, and the 3's have been insane. But its ALL extremes, so remember, while the bad days are crazy bad, the good days and the sweet moments are so drippy sugary sweet it's awesome :) (just try to finish your deadlines before his 2nd birthday. hehe)

  2. Okay, Erynn... Just want to say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE your character chart... :) It covers the important things without making you want to pull your hair out. I have to agree with Betsy. I'm a Half-Caf girl. Sometimes I can get away with Decaf, but I don't like it as much. Keep up the good work!