So, I’m in that whole character building phase of the writing process right now. Intermixed with that is the development of the family tree and discovering how the characters all relate to each other (through blood and emotionally). It’s fun, interesting and I think I’m getting some good nuggets for minor plot points.
Building a family tree is a bit more in depth than I’ve ever gone before with the character development process. Not only am I creating characters who are no longer living, but I am creating back stories for them as well. People not only have first and last names, but also middle names and college graduation dates and wedding dates (if applicable). In a family story like the one I am planning to write, this is necessary. Though the grandparents/great grandparents may not be around anymore, the actions of their generations definitely affect those who the story actually involves, therefore they must be constructed and fairly well fleshed out.
One way I’ve started fleshing out characters is picking a full birth date. Not just a year, but a month and a day. For those characters who have passed away, I have selected a death date as well. This has helped me figure out exactly what year my story needs to be set in – hopefully guaranteeing that I won’t have any structural issues regarding timelines as I begin to write.
Additionally, I’ve also gone so far as to do some companion research into the coordinating zodiac signs of the main characters. Zodiac signs don’t play into this story at all and there are no elements of magical realism and no character will likely ever even mention their zodiac signs. But, it’s been kind of a fun way to piece together characters and their relationships.
Reading those zodiac descriptors forces me to think about dynamics of a personality that I may not have considered without consulting those sorts of sites because when you read those detailed pages, they divulge the positives and the negatives about your personality – based solely on your sign of course. It also was helpful in figuring out their vocations or jobs. I didn’t think about going into this depth with the zodiac sign details inspiring me until I randomly decided to read about the appropriate professions for an Aquarius just for fun because my husband is an Aquarius. Turns out, Aquarius’ make great professors – which happens to be my husband’s profession of choice. Wild, huh? That coincidence got my attention, so I decided to use the zodiac descriptions for a few of my characters to determine their jobs and professions.
Whether you believe in the viability of the zodiac signs or not, they can be an interesting way to help discover some of the building blocks of your character. They sit like an “Everyman” figure, almost waiting for you to breathe life into them and make them your own.
Playing around with zodiac signs is just one way I’ve been working to build more robust and dynamic characters. I’ve also been combing Pinterest for images of people at appropriate ages to help flesh out what each person looks like. All of these are just little tricks to help create the ultimate multi-faceted character so that they feel real to the reader AND to help create a dynamic story that comes from the characters themselves.
What other tools have you used to help flesh out characters? Please share your ideas/experiences in the comments!