Getting to Know You


Germany is gearing up for the time of year when everyone dresses up in costume and celebrates big time: Karneval!!

Personally, I don’t understand the concept of this bizarre tradition but as I looked in the numerous shop windows this weekend, outrageously decorated with streamers, dummies donning daring designs and balloon displays that would make Walt Disney brim with pride, something struck me (no, not Kim Cattrall coming to life). I had a ‘Nicola moment’ and burst into a rendition of ‘Getting to Know You’ from the King and I: I do love a good musical. My husband turned a darker shade of red and briskly walked away.

I am currently trying to plan the second of my Crime/Thriller series and have been struggling, or trying too hard, to find the flow. Seeing the mannequins and their costumes reminded me to step into my characters shoes and see where they wanted to lead me, rather than the other way round. I had read that in Stephen King’s On Writing but needed a reminder.

First, I wanted to get to know them better. We always learn more about our own character when we have to deal with situations outside of the norm and so I dragged my characters around with me for the week. I plunged them, tags, traits and all, into situations out of the comfort of their everyday roles, observed how they reacted and considered what actions could possibly ensue. My detective spent the day in the classroom with my Year 9 students, my wealthy academic shovelled snow from my driveway and the Chief Superintendent served tea and cakes at a local charity event. It was so much fun and I learned a lot of new things about my characters, which will definitely aid the novel writing process.

I would be interested to know what escapades your characters get up to or what techniques you use to develop them.

Happy writing!

Comments

  1. Did the wealthy academic grumble while shoveling the snow?
    I read a trick where you're to write down in first person how each character feels about the other ones. I tried it and it really added some insight.

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    1. She did more than grumble, Alex. I've also done the first person thing and it does add depth to a character. Thank you for your comment. Great to see you.

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  2. I hadn't heard of the Karneval before, Nicola, but it sounds fun. What a good idea to take your characters around with you during the week! I can't start writing until I know who my two main characters are, but they really develop during the story once they start interacting with each other and the circumstances around them.

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    1. Karneval is an excuse for a good ole 'knees up', Rosemary. And the costumes ensure nobody recognises you after the fact :) I find developing my characters a really satisfying process. Thank you for your comment, Rosemary. It is always lovely to see you.

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  3. Always a good idea to stalk the wild character. But with crime/thrillers, we also need that twisty-turny plot to take readers on a roller coaster ride. Once we know the characters inside and out, it's easier to put them in those hair-raising situations, I think.

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    1. I totally agree, Milo. I am still trying to perfect my twists and turns but I find the whole learning process exhilerating. Thank you for commenting. Good to see you.

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  4. I'd take them all to the Karneval and let them hide behind masks. See what they get up to in disguise.

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    1. Great idea, Lynne. I shudder at the thought :) Hope you are feeling better.

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  5. I love these visual images of what you do to get to know your characters.

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    1. Thank you, Donna and thanks for popping by. Lovely to see you here. Wishing you every success with your new novelletta, A Season of Change !!

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  6. Sounds like a great way to get to know your characters! Thanks for the tip. :)

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Rachel. Great to see you here.

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  7. I haven't taken characters into my world, but I have stepped into theirs and followed them about, noticing what they look at and how they feel.

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    1. I usually do that, Patsy. A bit of role reversal on this occasion helped me to to free my mind during a sticking point in my planning. Thank you for your comment and for popping by. Wishing you lots of success with 'LIsten to Me' published on Alfie Dog Fiction.

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  8. Your post made me remember an episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation, in which the Enterprise was crippled and all the different parts of the ship were cut off from one another, with everyone stuck in the wrong places - wrong not just in terms of the chain of command, but also in terms of personal strengths and fears. The result was part drama, part comedy and lots of character development.

    That's exactly what you've done with your characters. It made me smile to see one of them ended up in school - in TNG Captain Picard got stuck in a lift with some children.

    All the best, as always, with your writing. xx

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    1. Glad I made you smile, Susanna. I am a big Trekky fan :) I must say, it was a lot of fun dragging my characters around with me. Thank you so much for your comment and for popping by. It's always lovely to see you here and I enjoy visiting your blog too. Keep up the fantastic work. All the very best!

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  9. I think Karneval sounds like a lot of fun.

    That's a good way to learn more about your characters. I have written flash fiction about mine in different scenes from their life to learn more about them.

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    1. That's a great idea - flash fiction. I will try that. Hope all is well, Cherie. Thank you for your comment and for popping over. All the best.

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  10. My characters go on fun trips all the time. Sometimes without me! What a fun post. :)

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  11. Thank you for making me smile first thing in a morning, Christine and for popping by to comment. I'll have to try sending them off solo :) Have a great day. All the best.

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  12. Getting to know your characters is key. Luckily for me, mine boss me around all day so I know them too the point I'm fed up with them sometimes. Best of luck writing.

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    1. uh-oh! Boss them right back and put them in their place :) Thank you very much for popping by to comment. Nice to see you.

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  13. Interesting post, Nicola. I've tried interviewing my characters, with varying success. I also think about what frightens them, and what their saddest memory is - a way of getting at character vulnerabilities which in turn make them human to me.

    Happy writing to you too!

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    1. Holding interviews? That sounds exciting, Jen. I must try that one. Thank you for popping by and commenting. Wishing you all the best and a good writing week.

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  14. I interviewed one of my characters on my blog during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. My questions were pretty random, and I learnt quite a lot about her that had never occurred to me before.

    Another thing I've tried, is to focus on what my character owns, asking questions like: What do they own that holds the most sentimental value to them? What do they have in their handbag, or briefcase, rucksack etc? What piece of furniture dominates their living space.

    And one I'm going to try on a writing buddies advice, is to write a monologue for each main character.

    Good luck with your writing plans.

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    1. Great ideas, Maria. My resource bank has grown so much this week, thanks to lovely bloggers commenting. Wishing you lots of fun with your monologues. Thank you for taking the time to pop by. It's great to see you.

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  15. Nicola - I've nominated you for a blog award. If you wish to accept, you can find it here: http://ros-readingandwriting.blogspot.co.uk/

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