I'm working on a new novel, tentatively called Mindkiller. The protagonist is an assassin with supernatural abilities. I'm trying to give a pretty extensive backstory, inspired by Middlesex.

She needed a first boyfriend and I made him a punk rocker. I did that because I was a punk in the eighties--down with Raygun!--so it's a culture I'm familiar with, plus that part of the book--her youth--is set in the eighties.

But it didn't work. I realized he can't be her age, he can't be an awkward inexperienced punk, he can't be unemployed or an artist. He's gotta be a yuppie! A pretentious yuppie from a working class background, so he's got something to prove. And he's older than she is. Kinda like Patrick Bateman but not a psycho killer. So I went back and changed it all--even changed his name. I'm only fifty pages in and the boyfriend doesn't show up until page 20, so it wasn't that bad.

But I wondered if I could have avoided the extra work by doing character sketches. I normally don't do them--or even that much planning or mapping out of plot. I have a loose idea of where I want the story to go, and then I let the characters guide me and sometimes they change the story. I do some work in notebooks, but it's usually freewriting when I'm stuck. That or I do dishes. For some reason, doing dishes helps.

Any suggestions on mapping and sketching? Does anyone out there do extensive plotting? Does it change anything or do characters do what they want anyway?

Okay. Back to work!
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6 Response to Characters/shmaracters

February 27, 2010 at 9:28 AM

I do monologues and diary entries for characters, as well scenes from their pov for backstory and that felt sense of who they are and how they would act.

February 27, 2010 at 3:28 PM

As a public service, because that's just how I am, I will come to your house and use every dish you own. Twice.

February 27, 2010 at 6:15 PM

I usually don't do character sketches either. However my other half (the ever helpful, want to be encouraging half of my household), brought a workbook for me titled - 10 Steps to creating memorable characters. It's interesting to say the least. I'm tempted to use it.

The thing is, I get in a writing groove and just take off with it. And yeah, I'm probably setting myself up for more work. For now I like the creative liberty. (Hugs)Indigo

March 1, 2010 at 5:37 AM
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March 2, 2010 at 6:16 AM

Most of my NaNoWriMo writers swear by intricate plotting and character outlines. More power TO them, I say, but it never works for me.

The best moments come when I get out of the characters' way and let them make the story.

Oh, and you need a manual typewriter. There's the charm.

March 18, 2010 at 8:37 AM

I did a character sketch of one of my main characters. I was about 12k into the writing of it and realized she seemed so generic. It was because I didn't know anything about her, I'd focused on the male mc, and had no trouble with him. Once I wrote up a character sketch of the female, she came to life for me and I was able to write her more easily. I also went back and layered the earlier parts.

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