I’m at the ACFW conference in Dallas, and it’s after midnight, local time. I don’t know if I’m still on West Coast time or not, but I’m a little sleepy, so this’ll be a short blog.
Technically, the conference starts tomorrow, but today is Day 1 for me, because we had the annual board meeting this afternoon, and one of my duties is to attend that.
Writers have been arriving all day, and it’s great to see a number of friends again. My brain is really bad at face-recognition, so it’s sometimes hard for me to recognize people I haven’t seen for six months or a year, especially if they’ve changed their hairstyle. Tomorrow will be easier, because everyone will have nametags.
Well, let’s talk about characters for a bit. Some people love creating characters and some people hate it. I love it, which means that I haven’t spent as much time studying HOW the process works, because it comes naturally to me. So I was glad to read a very good explanation of the steps of character creation in James Frey’s book, HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD MYSTERY.
The first step is to define the character’s “physiology” which is a little broader in scope than what I would have guessed. The “physiology” includes the character’s physical appearance, obviously, but it also includes nonphysical inherited attributes, such as intelligence and personality type. It also includes acquired characteristics such as scars, tics, diseases, language skills, talents, posture, degree of fitness.
In my experience, this is the easiest part of creating a character, and it’s the one beginning writers tend to spend most of their time on. It’s all important, of course, but it’s only the beginning.
It’s nice to know, for example, that your heroine has green eyes, but it’s far more important to know how she feels about that.
It’s good to know that your hero is only 5’3″, but it’s better to know whether his height has made him feel insecure or has given him a Napoleon complex.
If you were writing a novel with me as a main character (you’d be crazy to do that), you would want to know that I’m not good at recognizing faces. But you’d NEED to know what coping mechanisms I use to compensate for that.
We’ll talk about the second major aspect of character-creation tomorrow.