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Welcome to The Inkwell, the blog site of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) of Colorado.

Each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you can find a wide variety of topics and insight
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Seat of the Pants Character

I confess I’m a seat of the pants writer. I start a book with a general idea of the story and am often surprised by the twists and turns that show up between Chapter One and The End. But, until recently, I didn’t realize that I used a similar approach to character development.

What does that look like? Well, instead of using complicated character charts that detail everything from shoe size to food allergies, I let my characters emerge from the story in a more organic way. Not that character charts are bad. I have nothing against that method. It just doesn’t work for me.

Since I’m about to start a new project, I thought I’d give you a snippet of how this works for me.

In the first chapter my character, Julien, is going to get in a street fight late at night. That’s a plot point really, but what can I learn about my character from it? Here are a few possible character traits that might emerge from Julien’s altercation.

1. Julien is not a coward.
2. Julien probably doesn’t spend most nights at home reading by the fire. OR,
maybe he does. Maybe the fight is totally OUT of character for him.
3. Julien may have one of the following:
a. A strong sense of justice
b. A hot temper
c. Really bad luck

No matter what traits I choose to ascribe to Julien through this plot point process, I cannot fail to deepen his character. And, the next time Julien comes up against a similar situation, I have a precedent for his reaction. Viola—seat of the pants character development.

So tell me, how do you prefer to develop character? Do charts and character exercises work for you? Or, do you get to know your character as you write?

Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her
blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up
living and breathing good stories. Now she enjoys creating stories of her own. She has co-authored two children's books that are under contract with Waterbrook Press and writes novels as well.

1 comment:

Barbara Roberts said...

Evangeline, I do this too. Shoot, life is lived often by the seat of our pants, why not writing fiction? When I wrote "What A Christmas!" in 2006, my heroine flowed through my veins as a ten year old narrating the story of her family's tragic loss and all the other angst of November 1944. By the time I was finished, a bit player had stolen the plot and embedded himself in my mind and heart for the sequel, which ran to 400 pages and ranged from 1933 to 1954. I was so in love with this family and this time and this imaginary place I didn't want to end...but hey, 400 pages is enough. My best to you; all success be in Christ Jesus.

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