Wednesday, May 14, 2008

HOW TO ADD LAYERS TO YOUR CHARACTERS

Many of us use different character charts or GMC charts, but what about once those are done? Do you really have a three-dimensional character that will leap off the pages to involve your reader? How can you throw in some texture, some color, some unique design to make him or her real? One way might be by choosing a name then going to various sources to see what is said. For instance, here is what Source #1 says about Chase as a feminine name:

Your name of Chase makes you very idealistic and generous, with the strong desire to uplift humanity leading you into situations where you can express your desire to serve others. You want to assume responsibilities and to look after people; however, you can become too involved in other people's problems and tend to worry. Your name gives you a natural desire to express along artistic and musical lines. You desire a settled home and family life, and are expressive and attentive to your loved ones.



This immediately gives me ideas about her as well as some insight into possible GMC. Of course, you are the author and the creator of your characters. They live in your mind and through your actions.




Something we do is to cast astrological charts. See Source #2 for where we normally start. Most of us have a basic knowledge of the Zodiac - Virgos are neat, Leos are proud, etc. So if you have decided where your character was born and how old she is, then you can guess at their sun sign and play with variations of charts. We learned that one of our heroes had been abandoned as a child and raised in an unhappy home when we cast his chart. Slade is the villain of Changing Times Lusting Wild 1 available here but is redeemed in Changing Hearts Lusting Wild 2 coming soon from Ellora's Cave.




Tarot cards can also play a part in your characterizations. You can use the Major Arcana alone or with the Minor Arcana included to gain insight into your character. Try a three-card spread where the middle card represents the character and the card to the left stands for Internal Motivation and the card to the right External Motivation. Source #3 offers a variety of spreads for writers.


Death from the World Spirit Tarot

Finally, let your characters have wiggle room. Don't box them in at first. If you are a plotter, then plot, but let them step outside of the plot lines every now and again to see if any other layers show up. Your perfectionist nurse might be hiding a leather mini skirt in the back of her closet.




This was previously an article in From The Heart Romance Writers (RWA #177) newsletter in 2003. It's been altered a bit and pictures added for flair!



Leave us a comment and tell us how you make your characters pop! Or if you don't write, tell us what makes a character memorable for you!

9 comments:

Rachel said...

I LOVE the idea of using the tarot for character development. Very interesting.

N.J.Walters said...

Great article. Using the tarot and astrology to develop characters is a wonderful idea.

Ashlyn Chase said...

What a riot! My pen name...Chase is so me! LOL. I've long believed names come with a personality.

I have to let a character come to me. Usually by the third chapter I know the person and go back to add necessary clues to their personalities. Occasionally, I need to rename them.

Having worked with and studied people most of my life, I really don't have to do character sketches or interviews. I just listen to them telling me who they are. It must work because I get good comments on my 3D characters all the time.

Ash

Nancy said...

What a terrific article, ladies! Thanks for the tips!

I use astrology for the most basic of traits, then talk with the characters. I do interviews and character charts and whatnot if I'm really stuck.

I've never tried Tarot, but I'm a firm believer in whatever works for the individual. :)

Light,
Nancy Haddock
La Vida Vampire

Marilu Mann said...

Rachel, N.J., Ash, and Nancy! Thanks for stopping by! Nancy, GET BACK TO WORK, WOMAN! I need more Cesca stories immediately. Grin!

Shelley Munro said...

Great article. I've used Tarot and astrology before when layering my characters but hadn't thought of using name meanings in that way.

Marilu Mann said...

Thanks Shelley! I love all sorts of ways to give me an "edge" with my characters.

Sierra Wolfe said...

Great article! I loved the ideas of doing name, astrology, and tarot readings for characters. What a great way to gather insights into their personalities. I'll have to try doing that in the future. Thanks for the tips.

Marilu Mann said...

Sierra, let me know what you get from it if you try it!