Saturday, June 5, 2010

Getting to know a character

I'm trying to get started on a new novel and the going is a bit rocky. Actually, very rocky. I've always been more of a pantser than a plotter but since I was having so much trouble I thought I would try outlining a plot for a change. To start off with I tried using the snowflake method but it requires you to know a whole lot more about your story than I do at this point. Next I tried asking Google about novel outlining methods, but didn't find anything that helped me. Then I realized I was going about this all wrong and started over. I don't need an outline for a plot. Well, I do, but first I need something else - I need to know who my main character is. Since I currently write paranormal fiction I decided to try a tarot card reading to see what I could discover about him. Then I remembered I can't read tarot cards for crap and just flipped through the cards and my handy Tarot For Idjits book. Since the story involves a man embarking on a new phase in his life and the beginning of an adventure, The Fool seemed a likely card. As I sat and stared at this depiction of an oblivious person - who frankly always looks a little high to me, I mean, really, what's in that bag? - who is about to walk right off a cliff into who knows what, I began to wonder if the card was a more accurate depiction of my character, or of me. So I threw my hands in the air, put the cards back in their box, and went back to the first form of magic I ever believed in - music. Fair or not, nothing tells me quicker or more succinctly who a person is than finding out what kind of music they listen to. Same goes with the characters I create. I don't know why I didn't  try this method first. Chalk it up to nerves, maybe. I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself concerning this new project and that never helps. Finally I went through my music and I think I've found him. That is, found what he listens to. Admittedly, that doesn't give me much to work with in the grand scheme of trying to write a novel, but it tells me something about who my main character is, a little about how he thinks and how he'll move through the world I'm attempting to create. Every writer has different methods for getting to know their characters. This one has usually worked for me pretty well so I'm hopeful it will help kick-start these opening scenes I'm working on. I'd be curious to know what methods other writers use.