Character writing

I admit it, I’m a horrible (with a capital H) blogger! I see other people’s blogs, and wonder how they do it. How do they find the time or inclination to sit down and type something profoundly interesting about the nothing much on a daily basis? I think my problem is that I spread myself too thin. I can’t concentrate on any one thing for too long. Wait, I think that’s called Attention Deficit Disorder isn’t it? Not good.

At any rate my new writing project has been taking up some of my time. Probably not as much time as it should be though. I have almost 50,000 words, I need to get to 80,000 before I can say I’m ready to take a serious second pass through it. I’ve gotten into a bad habit of getting up and walking away from my computer whenever I hit the slightest wall. And it’s a hard habit to break. But I think instead of heading for the kitchen to eat a snack that I neither deserve nor need, I should force myself to do sit ups. That might be just enough of a deterrent to keep my rear firmly seated in my chair, and my fingers dancing away on the keyboards.

So here’s the long and nebulous way of getting to the reason for my post – character writing.  My mom’s gotten me hooked on Grey’s Anatomy reruns. I watch way too much tv as it is, and the last thing I needed was another distraction. From its onset, Grey’s Anatomy was one of the shows I made a conscious decision to stay away from. Not because I thought it was a bad concept, I mean who doesn’t love watching sexy good-looking people going at it in a hospital? But I stayed away because I had been a faithful E.R. enthusiast (until the last couple of seasons…bleh), and frankly, I resented any show that could even think of replacing it. But my mom, who is retired, has become obsessed with watching it on Netflix. I’m quite certain she is fully intent on watching them in order (season 1, episode 1 to the current season), but since she is a little memory challenged sometimes, she tends to flip around the seasons quite a bit, and the time lines start to get all muddled together. To her this is not a big deal. In fact, I think it makes things more interesting for her as I’m pretty sure she creates her own story lines for the characters in her head anyway. But for me, who needs stories to be told in a specific order, it was frustrating. Not that I write my stories in a precise chronological order, because I definitely do not. But it needs to make some sense in the end right?  Whenever I came to visit, I would sit and watch with her. And because she would watch the episodes in random order, I wouldn’t know if Meredith and Derek were together or not, if Christina was married or not, or if Callie was gay or not. Basically, I couldn’t become invested in the characters because I couldn’t see their development. To me they were just a bunch of randy doctors screwing each other.  And because I wanted to enjoy my visits with my mom, and be able to talk with her about her current favorite show,  I ended up starting to watch the episodes on my own…in the correct order. And only one season in, I’m officially hooked. Okay, maybe not obsessed like my mom is.  I certainly don’t always sit in front of the tv and watch each episode with undivided attention. I usually have it on in the background while I’m doing housework, or editing, but I admit I look forward to seeing how the characters grow and progress. I love it when you start off hating a character and then after getting to know them and spending time with them, they end up being your favorite. That’s just good story writing. I’m excited to see how the surgeons of Seattle Grace Hospital will surprise me next.

Now to the crux of the post…(told you it was a long way to get here)

It’s fair to say characters are the drivers of a story. You have a plot, you have an outline. You may even have a definitive moral of the story. But the character building is what gets you to the end.  As you get to know a character by writing about them -giving them words to say in dialog, describing their expressions and movements – the story changes. The characters themselves take you in different directions. Of course in order to keep the reader interested, the characters have to be believable. That isn’t always an easy task.

I thought I’d take this time to share the character backgrounds for a few of my characters in Finding Normal. I sort of  knew how I saw Emma before starting to write anything, but I had to get through writing the first passage before she truly formed in my mind. I scratched these character prompts onto a piece of paper right after I finished her first memory sequence in the story. I had yet to create the outline for how the story would progress or how it would end up. I just knew I had to get to know Emma more, in order to tell her story, but in the end, she made the story all her own.

Emma Rose Peterson -16 years old, brown hair, brown eyes, slender. Smart, clumsy, awkward. She’s not shy, but keeps to herself. She feels that friendships are complicated. Unapproachable. Has major issues of abandonment. Parents split when she was eight. Spends most of her time at home with her mom. Does well in school. No social skills. Low self esteem. Favorite color is blue. Loves old black and white movies.   Think real love is only in movies or books.

Jackie Peterson – Emma’s mom. Pretty, flirty, fun. Got pregnant and married young. She grew up in a very catholic family with a moderate income. Her parents disowned her when she got pregnant. Loves with all her heart, but doesn’t really know how to be a parent so she acts like Emma’s best friend. Favorite color is yellow.

As you can see these were very simple and the bare minimum. Character backgrounds can be as extensive as necessary to help you create your story. But bare in mind, you might change your mind half way through, and instead of having velvety blue eyes, your character can have dark crazy eyes.  Here’s  a great blog post I found about character writing  prompts.

Alrighty then, I best get back to my new project. This distraction has come to an end.