NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Prep: Getting To Know Your Characters.

nanowrimo prep getting to know your characters

 

If you’re reading this you’re very likely getting ready for NaNoWriMo, the fantastic adventure of writing a novel in a month! I’ve put this post together to help you really get into your characters’ heads, to help them leap off the page and bring the plot to life.

I’ve put together a series of questions below, but I want to dig into how to approach it first. I’ve taken a psychological approach to this, the questions are designed to really get into your character’s psyche. This means they ask you to dig deep and make those connections, all to help you write truly vivid characters.

I’ll give a quick example of what I mean here before you dive into the questions.

We’ll take Sian, she despises her co-worker Janey. That would fall under the relationship section.

Now dig deeper, ask why Sian despises her. What is it about Janey that really bugs her? After a moment I might realise that it’s the way she reminds Sian of her younger sister. Ok, that’s great, that’s a step! Now dig deeper. What is it about that, why does Sian’s younger sister create that reaction?

It turns out that Sian’s younger sister was very manipulative, she was always getting Sian in trouble when she’d done nothing wrong. She damaged Sian’s social life through junior high and that had a ripple effect out from there.

Then you can start looking at those ripples, and bring it all back to Sian’s relationship with Janey. You now have a much better grasp on Sian’s history, her personality, and how that comes around to impact her daily life in her workplace. That can be expanded back out to understand how she’d react to later plot points and developments.

Onto the questions!

The questions are in tiered bullets. The top question is the broadest, with the ones below it digging deeper. It’s up to you which questions you choose to ask, and which bullets will be best for you. You might not need all of this information for your plot, some of it might be completely irrelevant. That’s fine! Pick and choose, use what works for you.

Creating a character.

Appearance.

  • Broad strokes – height, hair colour, age etc.
  • Clothing style/preferences.
    • Why those?
      • What was the character trying to portray about themselves?
      • How comfortable is the character in that clothing?
      • How did they reach that decision? Was it purely practicality or something else?
      • If they could change their clothing, what to and why?
      • How do they feel about those have different styles and preferences?
  • Scars, markings, tattoos, piercings, lumps, bumps, etc.
    • How does that compare to those around them?
    • How do they feel about those markings?
      • If they were tattoos/piercings/markings done by choice, what was the character’s reason behind the decision?
      • If they weren’t the character’s choice, how do they feel about the fact they were permanently marked against their will?

History.

  • Was it generally happy?
    • What made it happy?
      • How did that compare to others in their social circle?
      • Were they the norm? If so, how did that make them feel? What was the impact?
      • What was the primary conflict through their early years? What was the impact?
    • If they could change one thing what would it be? Why?
    • How have their relationships with the key players in their relationships evolved?
      • Why? What impact has that had?
    • What were the stand-out moments for this character?
    • What was the character’s turning point?
      • What it positive or negative?
        • What are the primary lasting effects from it?
          • How do they deal with those effects?
          • What noticeable impact has it had?
          • Are there any traits or marks that allow other people to see and know what that turning point was? (i.e. a scar, the way they hate being touched.)
          • How open are they about that turning point? With themselves? With others?
        • What’s the biggest change the character has gone through thus far?
          • What impact has that had on their social surroundings and standings?
            • How do they feel about the change and the social aspects?
            • Do they have regrets? How do they deal with those?
            • How do they cope with change both within and around them in general?
          • How much and what form of conflict has been most present through their life to date?
            • How has that shaped their views and attitudes?
              • How do they feel about that?
              • Are they happy with their approaches?
              • What impact does it have on their day to day life?
            • How important is their history to them?
              • Do they acknowledge it as having shaped them or do they shrug it off?
                • Are they generally a forward thinking person or do they dwell?
                  • What impact does that have on their life?

 

 

Relationships.

  • Who are their core relationships with?
    • How healthy are those relationships?
    • What’s the character’s role within those relationships?
      • How did that come about?
      • Are they happy being in that position?
        • If not, why aren’t they changing it?
      • How does the character feel about the relationships?
      • How did the relationships form?
    • What are the character’s attitudes towards relationships?
      • Why?
        • Do they differ between familial, sibling, and romantic?
        • What are the root causes of those attitudes?
          • How do they feel about those attitudes? Are they aware of them?
        • Have those attitudes always been that way?
          • When they did they change?
          • Why?
          • Does the character do anything to try and change said attitudes?

 

Social Standing.

  • What is the character’s standing within society?
    • Has it always been that way?
      • How does that make them feel?
      • What impact has that had on their outlook, opportunities, and goals?
      • Are they working to change it?
    • How does the character feel about people in other social standings?
      • Why?
        • How do they feel about those feelings?
        • How are those feelings expressed?

 

Goals and dreams.

  • What is the character’s lifegoal?
    • What are they doing to achieve that?
      • How will they react if they find they can’t reach it?
      • What made them choose that goal?
    • How closely does that goal relate to the plot?
      • How core is that goal to that character’s personality?
      • How far would they go to achieve said goal?
    • How open are they about said goal?
      • Do they tell only select people or does everyone in the world know?
      • How did they choose who to tell and how to explain the goal?
    • How does the character’s goal relate to their biggest fear?
      • Are they aware of the connection?
        • How does that drive them?
      • How important are the goals and dreams of those around character to said character?
        • How far would they go to help those around them achieve their goals?
          • Would they choose their own goal over the goals of those around them?

 

Resilience and adaptation.

  • How well does the character cope with drastic change? (such as moving from the country to the city, or suddenly losing their parents).
    • How does this differ between situations? Are they fine about losing their job but would be lost without the people around them?
  • How many major changes has the character been through thus far?
    • How did they cope with each in turn?
    • How close together were said changes?
      • How did that affect their overall mentality and coping strategies?
    • How resilient are they when put in unpleasant situations?
      • How long would they last?
        • How does that differ between situations?
      • How adaptable is your character? How do they cope with small changes?
        • How far does that attitude spread? Do they loathe routine or thrive on it?
        • How much a part of their core personality is that adaptability or lack thereof?

Hobbies and outside interests.

  • Do they have any hobbies and interests that aren’t core to the main plot?
    • How important are those hobbies to them?
    • How did they start with that hobby?
      • How do those around them feel about said hobby?
      • Are they open and proud about it or do they hide it?
    • Is it something they do regularly or only occasionally?
    • Are there any hobbies or interests they quit?
      • Do they wish to return to them?
      • Why did they quit?

 

Mental health.

 

  • Are there any notable mental health quirks, oddities, or issues?
    • Are they aware of them?
    • How do they deal with them?
    • How do they get expressed?
    • How do the people around them deal with them?
      • How does the character cope with that?
    • How open is the character in discussing said mental health thing?
    • What impact does it have on their day-to-day life?

 

I hope this helped you flesh out your characters a bit better so you can really bring them to life through NaNoWriMo!

 

If you liked this post, check out my Urban Fantasy over on Amazon. 

 

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13 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Prep: Getting To Know Your Characters.

  1. Another amazing list of questions! All of your posts are really making me excited for NaNoWriMo! I probably shouldn’t, but I’ve been won over…I’m definitely going to be participating this year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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