Building Characters

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. I’ve been working against a few deadlines: finishing my book reading challenge (I’m at 31/50 for the year), finishing my last NaNoWriMo novel before November (We’ll see, I do have a writing schedule and have been writing every day), and preparing for/plotting the new one.

I was in bed last night, Kindle in my lap but still closed, getting ready to start reading in preparation for sleep. Suddenly, my main character for my new novel flashed in my head, a spark of idea that yelled at me, “Go get your notebook, and write me down…now!”

I got up and dug my Moleskine out of my purse, opened it to the next blank page, and began to write a stream-of-consciousness outline of my main character.

I’ve read dozens of writing advice blogs, etc., especially in the past few months. There’s a lot of things that writers mention that you don’t really notice until you actually do it yourself. One part is character building. Or rather, character listening. Because sometimes, you don’t really build your characters. They build themselves.

I was scribbling down furiously what she looks like, what her personality is like, a couple of minor quirks, what she does for a living. I still didn’t even know what her name was. It was the oddest feeling, knowing all of this about her, but not even knowing her name. That is, until they began to nag my brain, as if she was speaking to me.

I asked her, “What’s your name?”

Her name is Melanie Warren.

I asked her, “Do you smoke?”

I received an incredulous, snarky look. I could see her lighting up as we spoke. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Of course, I haven’t written her yet. She’s not real until I set fingers to keys on November 1. But it’s like she already existed in my head, and is ready to go barreling through the story at a breakneck pace.

It’s been a year since I’ve developed a character for a new novel. It seems that a year is long enough to forget almost how eerie it is to come up with characters, and how they already seem real.

It’s something that always reminds me of the Dark Tower series. The idea of “other worlds than these”.

In some ways, it’s hard to be developing another story because I’m itching to start this new one while I’m still working on the last one. But as long as I’m still writing, I don’t mind.  NaNoWriMo is going to be great this year, and I’m really looking forward to it.

When writing fiction, how do you develop characters in your writing? Do they “speak” to you? Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo and beginning to plot your own novels? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

8 thoughts on “Building Characters

  1. dawnhosking says:

    I spend time with characters for a few months before I begin. I develop a kind of profile and eventually do a question and answer session with the main protagonists to see what makes them tick, who are they and importantly – what do they want from life. What is it that they seek? Great post by the way 😉


    • Samantha says:

      Thank you! I’ve heard that is a great method for exploring and getting to know your characters, and I probably still should do that with this character, but it amazed me how her framework hit me in the head like a sledgehammer. It’s the oddest, yet one of the coolest feelings in the world 🙂


  2. eatsdrinksandthinks says:

    I just learnt about the NaNo in the last couple of weeks since I started reading other people’s blogs like a crazy lady. It sounds really cool but I started my novel a few months ago and then starting cheating on it with another one last week and am going to continue to focus on both of them (obviously without ever letting them know about each other) for the foreseeable future. I am excited about doing it next year though! I hope it goes well for you!

    PS. Love your blog theme – all the best people chose this one! 🙂


    • Samantha says:

      Aw thanks! I know how that goes! I already have an idea for a sequel for this year’s NaNo and I haven’t even written the first one yet! 😛 Thanks for stopping by 😀


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