Too Crafty

I have a nice rough, but layered outline for my story. But I set to work yesterday on character development and found myself totally stuck. Oh, I have a good grip on the basics of the primary characters, but when I started describing them in more detail, I defaulted to descriptions of people I knew, or cliched versions of characters I had seen in movies.

I have real, nuanced and interesting characters in my head, I swear! But working through my character development questions was tough.

I decided to spend some time building a visual representation of my characters. That’s right…. a collage. Can you tell I spend my days at home with a preschooler?

I built a childproof fortress for my on-the-run one-year-old, giving her safe access to the whole living room. I cut out lots of cutesy pictures of ice cream, school buses, and Elmo for my three-year-old (I’m saving TV for November!).

With them occupied, I went to work. I found look alikes for all of my characters in the ridiculous stack of magazines we now get (courtesy of Northwest air miles). Now I have a real physical image** to match the backstory, goals, and motivations of my characters. We’ll see if this makes developing a unique voice for each of them a little easier.

**Typical magazines like GQ and Health are not good for this exercise, given that all of the people are shined up and edited to look alike. I found the best character pictures in my college homecoming update, a kids magazine that featured a lot of parent contributors, and the Minnesota Monthly, which features a lot of stories about average citizens. Flipping through these periodicals, I often recognized one of my characters instantly, even when I previously hadn’t given any thought to hair length, eye color, etc. Maybe none of this will make a difference for the actual writing, but it was fun, and it occupied my girls!

3 thoughts on “Too Crafty

  1. I’ve done that before! I haven’t gone through magazines, but just somehow ended up searching online. I had to find someone who was half-Japanese/half American to see what my character looked like outside of my head.I did end up finding one that I think looks fairly similar to my MC–not exact or anything but pretty close. She happens to be a singer too, so there were lots of pictures of her.I’ve found one or two of my other characters too. I’m always on the lookout though because none of them for me are exact but just close representations. I’ve still yet to find anyone who resembles my antagonist.

  2. it so helps having some sort of physical vision, even if it changes. gives you a ‘person’ to work with…looking forward to that synopsis!!!

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