Warming Up to Characters

It’s pretty chilly where I am, today. At least, in my house, it is. So, why not discuss how to warm up to characters? Your characters in specific. Starting a new book is hard enough, dealing with plot and setting, but I know my favorite part, character creating, is one of the hardest things to do. However, making a character isn’t as difficult as writing with them for the first time. By now, in the book series I’m co-writing, my co-author and I are both fully aware of how our characters interact with each other. We know their personalities so well, it feels like when we write, the characters are really the ones in control, and we’re just telling the story of what they did, not making it up as we go. So, how do you get to this point? Well, it’s been nearly a year since we began writing, and I’d say we’ve been truly solid with our characters for only so much time. Maybe a few months? It takes time, for sure. Getting to know the happy-go-lucky character isn’t straightforward, and getting to know a closed off villain and his/her motives is no walk in the park. Here’s how we’ve managed to get comfortable with our characters and their behaviors:

Interaction Practice- One key method my co-author uses with new characters is interaction practice. Previous times, she’s taken new characters and had them interact with one another in mini writing sample, emphasizing their individual traits and practicing how these traits affect the interactions. This is not only good writing practice, but it helps show how characters react when meeting other characters, whether friendly or hostile. These are key things that will be useful later on.

Scenario Practice- My preferred method for getting to know new characters is scenario practice. This throws characters into random situations, good and/or bad, and focusing in on their traits to see how they’d react. It’s basically interaction practice, but with different scenarios instead of other characters (though it may be beneficial at times to include other characters, at least in small amounts). Some scenarios could include a character who’s afraid of heights getting stuck at the top of a Ferris wheel. Simple as that. Taking it to a whole new level is placing that character at the top of a skyscraper and comparing the reactions. Little or big, good or bad, the way a character interacts with his/her environment is just as important as how he/she interacts with other characters.

 

This drawing is absurdly old (like, a few months ago, absurdly old), however it demonstrates an interaction of sorts between the characters. Monte clearly doesn’t want anything to do with his siblings and their beliefs/responsibilities. Practicing interactions between relatives and main characters is extremely important. It helps carve out who they are. I really do need to redraw this, though…triplets

 

Balancing Creativity

Managing your time wisely isn’t always easy. In fact, it gets harder as you get older. I can work up to four or five hours a night sometimes, which leaves very little room for drawing or writing. This can, at times, negatively affect my mood, as I have no time to draw or write to vent my emotions. It’s difficult to balance several honors classes worth of homework, going to the gym, and doing things I enjoy. I’m sure other people suffer the same problems. There are afternoons when I’ll sit down and start working at three thirty, and work all the way through until nine thirty at night. Even on the weekends, if plans are made, I won’t have time to do the things I love. The lack of breaks can be overwhelming, adding to already building stress from lack of vent time. For those of you struggling with the same issues, here are some things I do to try to save time and manage it better. There are only so many hours in a day!

Work During the Day: School usually goes from eight in the morning to about three in the afternoon, for myself. This means I have about six hours to work at home, starting at three thirty, before I start to get tired and lose focus. This isn’t even counting time taken out for the gym, eating, showering, and the like. So, I try to work during the day. I often finish homework from earlier classes in later ones, or during lunch, if I can. This can prove tricky if things need to be printed or sent around to people, but it can definitely help lighten the load and leave more time for leisure activities at night.

Draw/Write During the Day: It’s certainly not as relaxing or enjoyable to draw or write at work or school, but there are times when it may be your only opportunity to do so on a certain day. Sketching on notes or leaving a tab open on your computer for writing during a class or work period can help improve your mood if you’re feeling upset for any reason. It’s a nice break from reality, and can help you feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.

Compromise: This is one of the best ways to cope with a lack of time for drawing or writing, at least in my humble opinion. By incorporating your art or writing into work or studies, not only do you have a valid excuse to draw or write, but you have the chance to show your colleagues what you can do. Praise from colleagues/classmates, and especially from bosses/teachers, can make you feel like you’re on top of the world and can cope with any busy schedule the world decides to throw at you.

Mayella Ewell.png

This is an example of compromise. I had the opportunity to use my art program to draw this portrait of Mayella Ewell for a symbolism assignment while my English class was reading To Kill a Mockingbird.