The Sunday Session: What Are Your Thoughts?

I thought I’d try something new with my blog. I’m not a big fan of assigning certain subjects to certain days – to be honest, I just don’t have the time to be organised with that. However, one of the reasons I started this blog was so I could communicate/share/swap ideas with other writers out in the big wide world. So…..my little mind pinged while I was brushing my teeth. No, it didn’t hurt; but I did race to my computer so I could write the idea down 🙂

For as long as I can remember I have always loved sitting around a table with a group of friends/family and fall deep into discussion. Whether it was about politics, religion, the weather – you name it, there was always debating, bantering, agreeing to disagree….. 

So I’d like to try a ‘panel’ idea with my blog. Every Sunday, I will choose a writing related topic to discuss and whoever wants to comment/give their opinion will be encouraged to do so. An open house of opinions and debating. Healthy and respectful bantering. It may work. It may not. It may take a while to get up and running. But that’s up to you, the reader 🙂

I’ll start off todays Sunday Session with this: What Are Your Thoughts On……

Character Development. Do you go into a story knowing this person inside out or do you let them speak to you as you write them?

Nothing too over the top, just a nice little introduction to the concept. If it picks up, the topics will get more controversial as time goes on 🙂 Feel free to suggestion topics to discuss.

I’ll finish with my thoughts on character development:

I’ve done both. I have gone into a story knowing exactly who I was writing however it felt very restrictive – every time my story took a different turn, I found that I wasn’t able to change my characters point of view. What’s worked for me is starting a story with a solid idea of where it was going to begin and end, and letting my character come out naturally as I wrote. With my current WIP all I knew was that my MC was psychotic. I didn’t even have her name. I know some writers who couldn’t even start a story without knowing their MC’s names!

What do you think? Please take part! I think it will be fun 🙂

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About Virginia

Writer, reader, crossword puzzler and conspiracy theorist.

27 Responses to “The Sunday Session: What Are Your Thoughts?”

  1. I always let my characters speak to me as I write them. I come up with their name, descriptions, and their place in the story; and after that, I just let them loose in the world.

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    • What happens if your story takes a different turn than planned? Would your characters adapt naturally or would you have to rewrite them? Sometimes I feel I may not have developed my characters too well if they dont progress easily with the changes in storyline – most times however I let the character speak for themselves. If I force it, it doesn’t happen.

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    • I pretty much do the same. The characters take on a life of their own and if I try to change something about them, they let me know!

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  2. I tend to sketch out the character’s basic physical makeup and their needs/wants, so I have a basis for their actions. Then using that sketch I proceed to place them in a situation and go from there. I do bring the major characters to the story with a decent notion of who they are. After that I allow the place, time and history inform them. My characters grow through the work and come out the other side a bit changed.

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    • Yeah, thats basically what I found has worked for me too. I did start a previous WIP outlining every single tidbit of a character but when I went to write the story, the two couldnt connect, it didnt fit. So with I Am The Damned, I relaxed a bit and let my fingers do the typing to some extent while still maintaining a fair idea of Emma’s personality in my head.

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  3. My character both main and supporting tend to develop as I write. Once I get started don’t dare bother me, I’m in another world with my characters, one that only other writers can fully understand. If I plan too much I hit dead ends because the piece has to flow and grow.

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    • Snap! I’m the same. I’ve actually taken to writing at night now, in bed, with the lights off so I am fully immersed in the writing and its working a charm. Everyone is asleep, I am alone with my laptop and my thoughts. Its wonderful.
      I did plan a little too much with a previous WIP and I think the reason I couldnt write it is because with the planning I felt there were too many boundaries. I agree with you, flowing and growing all the way here!
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  4. Fiction is not my genre…I love reading it, just have no gift in writing it. Having said that, since what I write is rooted in me, I suppose one could say that I am the character I’m writing about. In writing me, I never cease to be amazed by what comes out. I discover bits of my self that I didn’t know were there, and some that have been forgotten or neglected. Within this context, I suppose if I were to develop a character, I would probably like to have a strong frame of reference from which to spring forth and create. Sort of like having a nice skeleton to flesh out. Yeah, that feels right…

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    • So are you writing your memoirs? Or do you have a journal you write in just for yourself? x

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      • While I do have a journal, it’s not exactly in narrative form. It’s more of a series of note to self from Self. I do write somewhat sporadically on a couple of my blogs other than Serenity In The City. When I do, I put a link on my SETC post for those who may be interested. Last week was a busy week for me inspiration-wise. If you’re interested, he posts for Jul 18 and Jul 19 link to my thoughts about why I write and why I read.

        All of this is most definitely a voyage of discovery for me! 🙂

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      • Oh that sounds fantastic – self discovery is a magical thing. I’m going through something similar at the moment and its extremely liberating. Letting my thoughts speak for themselves and not interrupting! I am definitely going to read your thoughts, Im looking forward to it! 🙂

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  5. By the way, I LOVE the concept of a discussion group! Thanks for trying it out! 🙂

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  6. A weekly discussion is a great concept! I am always interested in reading other writers’ ideas.
    I’m still new at this, but for me, I get to know my characters as I write them. I have the idea for their story sketched out, but I discover the nuances of how they get there as I follow their stories. They definitely ‘speak’ to me, and I trust them to get me where I want to go with my story, because, in the end, the story and the characters are created by the same person, (me!) aren’t they?
    Even as I revise my current story, I am still learning about my characters. Every time I sit down to write, I learn something new and fascinating about them, and I think that is one reason I keep at it. 🙂

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    • It’s like playing God, isnt it. The more I write my MC the more I like her – even though shes a psychopath. Which is true of the concept of God – loving his children no matter what. 🙂

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  7. Virginia, this is a great idea! I know exactly what you mean about being reluctant to make a structural commitment with blogging (I still lack one, myself), but I think it will generate some awesome discussions…not to mention grow your audience!

    As to character development, I have to say that mine is a mixed approach. It’s interesting; I started my book-in-progress with vague notions of qualities I wanted each of my main characters to possess, then went through and did a one-page sketch (including things like their physical features, strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, favorites, etc.) for each of them.

    Now, it’s been a good four-five months since I did those sketches– I had to put my book on hold for a while. But what I’m finding as I come back to the story and really delve into writing it now is that my characters are loyal to my those first visions of them– even without my USING the outlines I wrote to craft them! But they are also revealing more of themselves in action. I have one, for example, that I planned from the beginning to be a smooth operator who always infuriates the other protagonist because he gets away with so much. In writing this handsome bastard, I found that he is always eating something, talking with his mouth full, and generally being steel-stomached slob. I’m really having fun with it 🙂

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    • Isnt it interesting that no matter how much we ‘plan’ our characters, once their lives unfold on paper they take their own turn. I mean, these are fictional ‘people’ – they only exist in our minds. But like real humans, they have their own personalities, wants, hopes, dreams, fears. Its fascinating 🙂

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  8. I usually have a fairly good idea who my characters are but sometimes I do get the feeling they are whispering in my ear sharing secrets which I hadn’t anticipated I happened a couple of times during the first draft of my WIP and one character refused to let me give him a name until the second draft. other characters I could write their biographies right from the start

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    • I find it hard to name my characters right away. I had about 2 different names for my MC before I decided on Emma – which is a nice name, no fancy spellings or pronunciations. It does mean ‘blood’ in Greek though which I thought added a nice touch seeing as she is obsessed with murder 🙂
      But I would not have thought of naming her this before I started writing the story.

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  9. Like what I think most have said, I let the character speak to me. I imagine a non-writer or for that matter me a few years ago would think that sounds completely pscychotic; the notion that a fictitious person that we create can lead us in the writing process, but it’s so true. There’s a magic in this craft!

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    • Yes, I agree. It IS hard to see how a fictitious person can ‘speak’ to us but they become people in their own right. It’s difficult to put into words but writers collectively agree on this. Its definitely magic! 🙂

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  10. For longer novel length stories, I write a one or two page biography for each main character. This helps me get a feel for the people I’m throwing together, their predominant moods, their goals, what drives them, their educational background. I also think long and hard about where they were placed in their family dynamics while growing up, as I believe this forms the core of their being, how they see the world and how they will develop.

    When I’m writing short stories, I do a lot less biographical work and prefer to write them from the mood they are in at the start of the story and the moods they shift to by the end. For example, I might create an older man and put him in a tired, gruff mood and as events occur he might display jealousy and start trying to justify his superiority before realising someone else has better qualities than himself and so he undergoes a softening and ends up apologising and making a new friend.

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    • Thats very interesting. I’ve read about a lot of writers who dedicate a lot of time to developing their characters. So much so that they spend more time researching their backgrounds and establishing them before embarking on the actual story.

      I did try that for a previous WIP but I found I was losing touch with the real idea of the story so I let it go. With my current WIP, I’m letting my character unfold in front of me. I have a basic understanding of her personality and what she is and isnt capable of but as she has borderline personality disorder, her moods change from one moment to the next. I suppose this might make it easier to write her as her mind is all over the place and inconsistent.

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      • There’s a lot to be said for letting the character take the reins as it can lead to an unpredicable storyline and that can be a good thing. In the movie, Before Sunrise (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke), the characters are revealed layer by layer and you don’t exactly know which way it’s going to end, although you do have hopes …

        Have you read ‘Breathing Life into Your Characters’ by Rachel Ballon? I think there might be something in there about borderline personality disorder. It sounds like you’ve got a great character to develop. Moods and emotions, you’ll have a great time.

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      • Oh, it’s been so much fun writing her – I can break the rules a little bit! 🙂
        She can go from happy to confused in one sentence – and all of this unfolded as I was writing the story. At first, I had a general idea that she was mentally disturbed but the borderline disorder manifested itself about a month after I developed the story line.
        No, I havent read that but it sounds good and I might head on over to the Book Depository and see if I can get it. I’ve been doing a lot of googling about borderline – actually, I had first hand information when I met a mental health nurse at a childs birthday party. Of all places!

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  11. With my current WIP, I had an idea about my main character and some of her backstory and it developed as I wrote. I don’t think I could write any other way. My side characters also developed as I wrote and some of them completely changed. In fact, two of them changed the story. I like it when things like that happen.

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  1. Open Mic Night (Time To Share Your Stories) « Poeta Officium - July 24, 2012

    […] is the panel-style Sunday Session (link here to the first ever one last week)   […]

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