I love them. Truly I do. But when I want to get to know them better, how do I go about it? Talk to them? Interview them?
"Hi, my name's Karen. I have seven children. And a dog."
Okay, that works. But what does that really tell you about me? My name and that I either love children or merely enjoy gaining lots of weight every year or so and then trying to get it all off again. (Yeah, right.) You can see I have a dog, but does that mean I'm happy about it? (I am, btw. She's a beagle--hence my obsession with Snoopy)
But you can see that there's more telling than showing in my intro, and surely not enough information to get a true picture of who I am. How I would react to a given situation. What sort of things annoy me. Are our characters facing the same difficulty in our story? Are we merely telling people about them or are we painting an accurate picture of who they really are? If not, how do we go about doing so?
First off, we need to know our characters. Truly know them. There are many ways to go about doing this, but here is one technique I learned recently that you can use to understand them better.
We're going to make two lists.
List ten things that describe your character, that if you were to change or eliminate that one thing they would no longer be the same person.
- For example: "I am a mother with seven children." If you were to take away any one of those seven children, or all of them, I would no longer be a mother (in the same way). In fact, I would probably fall apart, but I digress.
- Another example: "I have faith in God." Now I guarantee that if you took away my faith I would totally change as a person. I wouldn't act the same, pray the same (or at all), and my goals in life would change dramatically. So my faith is an integral part of me.
List ten things that describe your character that if you were to take them away or change it wouldn't truly change them as a person.
- "I love popcorn." Okay, so maybe some of you would die or fall apart if you didn't get your daily or weekly fix. But can you honestly say that it would change your personality that much? Probably not.
- "I eat chocolate for breakfast." I must really be hungry this morning to be using food as my examples. But the fact remains that if I didn't have chocolate for breakfast, I would probably find something else to eat. And in this case that's probably a good idea. :) I don't think it would redefine me though. Not like one's faith, or status as a mother.
I mean, hey. What if taking away someone's popcorn truly resulted in a mental breakdown. And why on earth would that happen? Hmmm...now that sort of thinking has the makings of a marvelous mystery. Maybe it's time to continue my list. :)