Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Character Chart Example from Ready-Made Family
Yo, die-hard pansters in our Seekerville readership, please pardon me a moment while I post this as promised. Try not to twitch too much or Cap'n Jack may wake up from his drunken slumber. LOL!
MY ANSWERS ARE IN ALL CAPS AND BOLDED BESIDE THE QUESTION.
This post is in reference to my Character Chart Template and Preparing for a Writing Spree Plotstorming (my character-driven plotting) posts on 12/16 and 1/20.
Scene Index Example post (also from Ready-Made Family) to follow on March 17 next month here which will conclude this tutorial.
One thing to keep in mind is that I used to be a die-hard panster...and for the most part, still am. My characters drive my books. This is why I spend great effort getting to know them prior to pansting the book.
Also, you may find later (through contest critiques or editorial/agent feedback) that you need to better develop your characters. These posts are coming from someone who has consistantly received overwhelmingly positive editorial, agent, reviewer and reader feedback on creating strong characters. My editors say that they can always count on me to nail characterization. You want your editor/future editors to be able to know that about you too. So, even if you're a panster, your characters have to be proven and effective even if your plot is stellar, if this makes sense.
Your methods will only work if they impress acquiring editors, pub house boards and your core readers. I only say this to encourage you to keep an open mind as you learn and grow in your craft. My methods won't work for everyone. You have to find a method that not only works for you, but creates characters that will sell and sustain your career. After all, that's one of the main points of all of our hard work, right? Landing a readership base and securing shelf space in bookstores.
I say all that to say this: My character chart may click with some of you, but if it doesn't DON'T FEEL BAD OR STRESSED. There are a gazillion different ways to create great characters. Charting characters just happens to have been the method that worked for me. Take from this what you feel may benefit you (even if that's zilch. LOL!) and toss out the rest. No pressure here. LOL!
FIND WHAT METHODS WORK FOR YOU. Hopefully your methods will lead to contracts and a stellar readership base and sales numbers that will better your chances of continued contacts. Trust me, it matters.
But...since I did promise this to those who were interested...here we go:
(For brevity's sake, I'm only posting my hero's character chart. If you're interested in the heroine's character chart, e-mail me privately).
BY THE WAY: the below took me approximately 10 minutes per character to complete. If you choose to do a character chart, you can fill it out at any stage of the game. Prior to writing, during the writing of, or after completion of the novel.
FYI: ("C" means "Character")
Name: BEN DILLINGER
Education: COLLEGE DEGREE AND CAREER MILITARY
Current Career: US AIR FORCE PARARESCUE JUMPER
Pertinent past careers/training: NA
Celebrity look-alike (if any): LOOKS LIKE AN ASIAN BEN AFFLECK
Type of dress/style: DIGITAL DESERT OR GREEN CAMO PANTS AND T-SHIRT BUT ALSO WEARS PREPPY DARK POLOS AND KAKHI SHORTS AND JEANS
Hair color and style: OIL BLACK, MILITARY BUZZ, SHAVED ABOVE HIS EARS
Eye color and shape: ALMOND SHAPE, ASIAN EYES, HERSHEY BROWN W/CARAMEL-COLORED FLECKS
Other physical attributes/description/build/physique/body type: VERY TALL FOR ASIAN
Height and weight: WELL BUILT. FIVE-ELEVEN. VERY PHYSICALLY FIT AND MUSCULAR FOR HIS JOB WHICH REQUIRES A RIGOROUS EXERCISE AND TRAINING REGIMENS
Physical limitation/scar/injury/disability (if any): NO PHYSICAL. HAS A PROBLEM WITH CONFIDENCE IN HIMSELF IN RELATING TO AND COMMUNICATING WITH HIS SPECIAL NEEDS BROTHER WHO HAS MOSAIC DOWN SYNDROME
Pertinent background/backstory/Pertinent past events (good or bad): HIS FAMILY LOST THEIR HOME AND ALL POSSESSIONS WHEN HE WAS YOUNG. HE RECALLS THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES IN TOWN HELPING HIS FAMILY. THIS DEVELOPED HIS FAITH AND DREW HIM TO GOD
Greatest accomplishment/achievment in his eyes: BECOMING AN ELITE SPECIAL OPS PJ, SINCE THE DROPOUT RATE IN THE PJ PIPELINE IS OVER 80% FAILURE RATES. THERE ARE LESS THAN A 1000 PJs WORLDWIDE AND HE'S ASSISTED WITH MANY NATIONALLY KNOWN DISASTERS
Defining moments: THE CHILDHOOD FIRE
Traumatic events that have shaped them: NOT TRAUMATIC BUT GROWING UP WITH A BROTHER WITH DOWNS SHAPED WHO HE IS TODAY. HOW HE BADLY TREATED HIS BROTHER AND THE PAIN THAT CAUSED HIS BROTHER ACTUALLY IS WHAT DRIVES (MOTIVATES) HIM TODAY TO BE A MORE COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING
Greatest dream: TO HAVE A FAMILY. STORY GOAL IS TO HELP THE SINGLE MOTHER HEROINE GET BACK ON HER FEET AND FIND A JOB AND A SECURE, SAFE PLACE TO LIVE
Greatest fear: TO LET HIS BROTHER DOWN AGAIN IN THEIR NEWLY DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIP
Where they grew up: NA
Where they live now: REFUGE, ILLINOIS
Family history: MOM TAIWANESE, FATHER CAUCASIAN
Family dynamics now: PARENTS MARRIED. THEY'RE GOING ON WORLD TRAVEL SO BEN'S TAKING IN HIS ADULT DOWN SYNDROME BROTHER
Children? # and background: NEVER HAD KIDS. HEROINE HAS 7 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER
Relationship history: DATED BUT NO ONE SERIOUSLY. NEVER BEEN MARRIED OR ENGAGED
Divorced, Single, Widow, Widower, Estranged (circle one)and why SINGLE BECAUSE HE HASN'T FOUND THE RIGHT GIRL UNTIL HE MEETS HEROINE
Current view on relationships: WANTS A FAMILY AND IS READY TO SETTLE DOWN BUT IS CONFLICTED BECAUSE HE'S NEEDING TO CONCENTRATE ON HIS BROTHER WHO IS IMPORTANT TO HIM
Describe their current relationship with God: STRONG CHRISTIAN, WORSHIP LEADER IN CHURCH
Belief system and struggle: NA. HEROINE HAS THE ISSUE
Faith system and struggle: NA. HEROINE HAS THE ISSUE
Personality type (A, B, Etc. Alpha, Beta, Theta, Etc.): ALPHA MALE WITH BETA UNDERTOWS. IS ROMANTIC AND CREATIVE AS WELL AS A MILITARY ALPHA MALE
Archetype if any (ex. Chief, Bad boy, Charmer, Etc.): NA
Temperament (This can change by the end of the book with C growth.): COMPASSIONATE
One-word adjective to describe C (most noble trait): DETERMINED
How friends/family would describe them: GENEROUS
How they'd describe themselves: LOYAL
Flaw: ASHAMED OF THE WAY HE TREATED HIS DOWN SYNDROME BROTHER GROWING UP. SELF-CONSCIOIUS TO BRING HIS BRO AROUND HEROINE BECAUSE HE'S ASHAMED OF HIS INABILITY TO COMMUNICATE WELL WITH HIS BROTHER
Quirk: HE'S AN ASIAN WHO HATES ASIAN CUISINE
Vehicle they drive/ride/fly: PARACHUTES AND A RED CHEVY MALIBU
Financial status/and how they manage and view money: NA. WISE. SECURE. MANAGES MONEY WELL
Socioeconomic status/ and how they view i:t HE'S INTO USING HIS TIME AND MONEY TO HELP OTHERS. SOCIAL STATUS MEANS ZILCH TO HIM OTHER THAN HE CAN'T STAND TO SEE SOMEONE LEFT OUT AND OFTEN BEFREINDS THOSE LESS FORTUNATE
Ever met hero/heroine prior. If so, how so?: NA. NEVER MET PRIOR TO STORY OPENING
Secondary C most important to main C: FOR BEN, IT'S HUTTON, HIS DOWN SYNDROME BROTHER. FOR AMELIA (HEROINE) IT'S HER DAUGHTER REECE
Story Goal: TO HELP THE HEROINE FIND A JOB BY SUMMER'S END. THIS NEEDS TO BE A MEASURABLE, DEFINABLE GOAL THAT CAN BE REACHED WITHIN THE STORY TIMEFRAME
Motivation: HIS INNATE COMPASSION AND HE FEELS NUDGED BY GOD TO DO SO
Conflict (external/internal/relational/spiritual): NEEDING TO HELP HIS BROTHER COMPETES WITH HIS GOAL OF HELPING THE HEROINE. ALSO HIS CAREER TAKES HIM AWAY AT UNEXPECTED MOMENTS FOR MILITARY AND HUMANITARIAN RESCUES.
Comments: MOST OF THE RELATIONSHIP RETICENCE IN THIS STORY IS ON THE HEROINE'S PART SINCE SHE HAS TRUST ISSUES. SHE DOESN'T BELIEVE PEOPLE HELP ONE ANOTHER WITHOUT AGENDA.
Note: my "what's keeping them apart" is normally the main conflict that drives the book. So I normally put that under "Conflict" if the book is a romance (and all mine are. LOL!).
Definitely three of the most important things you gotta know is what initially brings them together, as well as what keeps shoving them back together time and time again, and what keeps keeping them apart.
In addition, you'll want to know:
How H/h meet: IN A PARKING LOT WHEN HEROINE PASSES OUT AND HER DAUGHTER RUNS TO HERO FOR HELP
What event/situation/plotpoint keeps throwing H/h together during book: HIM SEEING THEY'VE FALLEN ON HARD TIMES AND DETERMINES TO HELP THEM. SHE HAS NO ONE ELSE TO TURN TO AND REFUGE IS A TOWN THAT LIVES UP TO ITS NAME. HE OFFERS HER RIDES AROUND TOWN AND KNOWS SHE DOESN'T HAVE FRIENDS IN THE STRANGE TOWN WHILE HER CAR'S BROKEN DOWN SO HE BEFRIENDS HER AND REACHES OUT TO HER AND HER DAUGHTER CONINUALLY. AND HEROINE CONTINUALLY QUESTIONS HIS MOTIVES BECAUSE HER DAUGHTER'S FATHER NEVER DID ANYTHING FOR HER WITHOUT EXPECTING SOMETHING LEWD IN RETURN
What event/situation/plotpoint/character keeps them apart during book: HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS BROTHER. HER FATHER IS PREJUDICED AGAINST ASIANS AND SHE IS CAUCASIAN. BEN IS ASIAN. HER FATHER THREATENED TO DISOWN HER IF SHE EVER ENTERED AN INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIP. SHE HAS TO TRUST GOD THAT HE WILL WORK OUT HER FATHER'S ISSUES BUT IN THE MEANTIME STRUGGLES WITH CHOOSING A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HERO OR ONE WITH HER FATHER
The book I've referenced in these Plotstorming (character-driven plotting method from a panster-turned-sorta-plotter) is Ready-Made Family which will be available in April and can be preordered any of these places online:
Barnes and Noble
Also, it releases in stores in April 1, 2009.
NOW...for the best part...maybe...sorta...depending on if you end up liking the book. LOL!
Since I've tortured some of you anti-chart people with this for four posts, I'm making it up to Seekerville by giving away FOUR copies of Ready-Made Family next month here in Seekerville. So stay tuned for that.
Thanks for supporting our blog and our Seeker books with your readership! We are beyond thankful!