character

Rounded Characters

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Recently, I’ve really been struggling with finding my protagonist’s motivation and core need, two vital ingredients for likable, believable characters. I think that to find this, you must look at the character’s whole personality. Today, I tried a new approach for character development that worked very well: mind mapping.  I use a free software called XMind.  This created a picture of my protagonist’s complete personality: strengths, weaknesses, fears. To start, I put his name in the center.  Then, I made a main topic for each of his personality traits.  Then, I created subtopics off of the main topics.  These are examples of the personality trait or how it affects their life.

Example:

Main topic: strong

Subtopics: he likes to exercise, he’s a good leader, he’s calm under pressure.

 

Click to see my protagonist’s mindmap

Nathaniel Kapaun mindmap image

 I learned two things today. First, find your character’s motivation and core need before you figure out the rest of their personality, and second, use a mind map and a character development worksheet. This forces you to think about your character in two different ways, it uses different parts of your brain. 

I wish I was an Artist…

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paintbrush imageAs I’m finding inspiration pictures for each my characters I’m thinking it would be really great to be a skilled artist.  Then, I could find an inspiration picture and redraw it, changing the parts I don’t like or that don’t fit the character.  Or I could  start from scratch, and draw them how I envision them in my head.

I’m so jealous of Burdge-Bug.  She draws the cutest fan-art for her favorite books.  If I could draw like her, I would include my drawn pictures of my characters in the back of my novel (even though it’s not published yet).

 

But, I’m far from an artist, so I guess I’ll have to be content with modeling my characters after actors and actresses or random people I find on Pinterest.

What are your favorite ways to find inspiration pictures for your characters?

Flitting Around

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building-character

I’m in the developing characters stage in my current work in progress.  This time, I decided to only work on one character sketch at a time.  I chose this because I’ve found that if I try to work on all of them at once, I flit from character to character, ending up with many half-way developed characters, instead of one solid character.

Every day for about a week now, I’ve worked on building my protagonist for about 1- 1 1/2 hours.  Now, I only have three more questions to answer until I can move on to the love interest!  I think this will save time in the long run and create better formed characters. Sometimes, I’d want to move on to another character, but I’d force myself to think about my protagonist instead.  I find the enegram types and the four temperaments can help me create believable strengths and weaknesses in my characters, especially if my character is opposite from me, like my current choleric/sanguine hero.  Sticking to only one character also helped me focus and discipline myself, two skills that are writers need.

What are your favorite ways to develop characters?

My Writing Binder ~ Part 1

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I find it very helpful to keep a writing binder for each of my story ideas.  This keeps all my papers and notes from getting lost or wrinkled.  I divide my three ring binder into different sections ex. characters, plot, setting, research with page dividers.  I always have a regular lined notebook to write down random ideas or to brainstorm with my binder.

Here are the things that are in my ‘character’ tab:

colored betsy
This is an example of a character inspiration picture. This one was originally black and white, but I printed it out and colored her how I wanted her.
  • Each of my main and supporting character’s sketches.
  • Each of my main and supporting character’s inspiration picture so I can envision them more clearly.
  • K.M Weiland’s blog post on character archetypes.
  • Any other helpful blog posts on creating or developing characters.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you what’s in my ‘plot’ tab!

 

 

Creating Characters

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I know these are a dime a dozen, but I made a printable character development worksheet for anyone who is interested. Enjoy!

Character Sketch- Main Character

Character Sketch- Supporting Character

The Four Temperaments

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Recently, I’ve been learning about the four temperaments.  I’m reading a book called The Temperament God Gave You, by Art and Laraiane Bennett.  The four temperaments are choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholy.  Understanding each one’s strengths and weaknesses can help you understand yourself and others better.

The four temperaments are a very old method for figuring out personality.  Hippocrates (460-377 B.C) may have been the first to discover them.  His theory was that each temperament was created by an imbalance of fluid in the body, which is why they each have strange names.

Choleric: yellow bile from the liver

Phlegmatic:  phlegm from the lungs

Sanguine: Blood from the heart

Melancholy: black bile from the kidneys

I’ve also found that knowing the four temperaments is also helpful for figuring out characters.  It’s a very concise method, since there are basically four types (there are secondary temperaments too). This method is my second favorite for characters, next to the enneagram types.  I’m melancholy, and in my current novel, my protagonist is a choleric.

Here is an overview of the four temperaments.

Choleric (The Achiever) 

Generally, cholerics are people who get things done.  They are extraverted, confident and decisive.  They react the quickest out of all the temperaments.  The choleric temperament is the opposite of the phlegmatic temperament.

Strengths

Weaknesses

 

Practical

Rational

Driven

Courageous

A natural leader

Independent

Quick thinker

Passionate

Not easily discouraged

Doesn’t complain

 

 

 

Bossy

Not compassionate

Proud

Impatient

Prone to anger

Makes rash choices

Reckless

Demanding

Doesn’t like to listen to others, always wants to be in charge

Can’t relax

 

 

 

Phlegmatic (The Diplomat) 

Generally, phlegmatics are people who like peace and quiet.  They are introverted, reserved and slow to anger.  The phlegmatic temperament reacts the slowest out of all the four.

Strengths

Weaknesses

 

Team players

Encourage others

Settle arguments (as long as they are not directly involved in the conflict)

Patient

Not easily stressed

Meek

Easy to get along with

Good planners

Even-tempered

 

 

Plans, but never starts

Unenthusiastic

Overly-tolerant

Hates conflict

Indecisive

Procrastinates

Struggles with change

Holds grudges

Messy

Hard to motivate themselves

 

 

 

 Sanguine (The Enthusiast) 

Generally, sanguines are partyers. They like having fun and are people-oriented. They are extraverted, excitable and spontaneous.  The sanguine temperament is the opposite of the melancholy.

Strengths

Weaknesses

 

Life of the party

Motivates others

Inspires others to join in the activity

Optimistic

Generous

Wants to please

Energetic

Doesn’t hold grudges

Makes things fun

Likes volunteer work

 

Wants to be popular and fit

Talks too much and interrupts others

Disorganized

Doesn’t see the long-term effects of their actions

Impulsive

Irresponsible

Weak-willed

Naïve

Lacks follow-through

Struggles to be alone

 

 

 

 

Melancholy (The Idealist) 

Generally, melancholies are people who are serious and focused on the ideal.  They are introverted, intelligent and empathic.  Melancholies are the most introspective of all of the temperaments.  Many writers were melancholy.

Strengths

Weaknesses

 

Deep thinker

Likes serious discussions or debates

Loyal friends

Perfectionist

Analytical

Very disciplined

Organized

Appreciates beauty

Idealistic

Sees long-term effects of their actions

 

 

Tends towards depression and anxiety

Indecisive

Dramatic

Pessimistic

Skeptical

Dislikes change

Hard to please

Critical of others

Not open and friendly

Holds grudges

 

 

To learn more about the four temperaments, click here.   To take a personality test, click here.

Flashbacks in your Writing

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Flashbacks can be a valuable technique in writing, if placed strategically.  I’ve found that books without them typically have less depth and are less interesting.  The Divergent series is an example of this.  These books don’t have flashbacks and I thought the characters were not very developed as they could have been. I’m currently reading a book that has many flashbacks and the characters are more human and I am able to understand their motives better.

 

Here are some benefits of having flashbacks in your writing:flashback image

  • Helps your readers sympathize with your character more.
  • A flashback can be gripping way to show some life-changing event in your character’s life.
  • Can show readers what formed your character and why he believes what he does.
  • Can help the reader understand the current conflict better.

 

When not to add a flashback:

  • If the flashback doesn’t add anything interesting to the story.
  • The event in the flashback wasn’t significant or life-changing.
  • If the flashback doesn’t strengthen the current conflict.

 

 Do you like using flashbacks in your writing?