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Monday, June 13, 2011

Building Character

Last week I talked about plot. I think getting to know your characters is equally, if not more, important than plotting. Many times when I have been stuck on a plot problem I figure out that what I really have is a character problem. Often there is some vital piece of information missing that I need to know about them before I can move the story forward.

Before I start to work on a new project, I write myself letters from my main characters. I learned this from my wise mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill. At first I felt a little silly doing this-I mean they aren’t real people, after all. But it is truly amazing what happens when you put pen to the paper and channel your characters. You find out all kinds of useful things about them-where they were born, what kind of childhood they had, why they committed that murder.

I may not always use the information they give me, but I’m convinced that knowing their back story helps when I’m working on my project. And more than once, when I’ve gotten into that tough spot, I’ll sit down and write myself a letter from that character. Lo and behold, I’ll find out some key piece of information I needed to know.

Go ahead, try it out.

No one has to know you’re talking to yourself- and really are you? As a writer, our characters come alive, and that’s where the magic happens.

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