The purpose of this lesson was to make me think about my characters as multi-dimensional people. It certainly accomplished that. A character isn’t a physical description or a bunch of emotions and traits that can apply to anyone. They have to be an individual that other people can relate to and care about.
The 250 word maximum forces me to focus on the big ticket items; what they want desperately, what they fear most and what makes them memorable. My profiles fell short in those areas. I know the answers to those 3 questions.
Anne desperately wants to connect emotionally with other people and stop pushing them away, fears being a failure and ending up alone therefore fulfilling her parent’s assessment of her, and has an uncanny ability to identify and solve problems. She has a quick wit and can find the humor in any situation.
Tim wants desperately to find someone to love who doesn’t want to change him, fears spending his retirement alone in front of the TV eating take out and being fixed up with every single woman in town and is a par golfer who always has his clubs with him and was the town hula hoop champion in his teens.
There’s a lot more to say about them and the reasons they are this way but if I have to boil it down to the big 3, there they are. I’m working on expanding the profiles and creating secondary character profiles. I’m also defining my settings and trying to keep Josephine Damian’s advice about the 3 act structure in mind.
What’s exciting is that as I do this the story is beginning to shape itself. Things flow naturally from certain characters and settings. I’m not ready to sit down and bang out the manuscript yet, but when the time comes I think it’ll be easier to do because I won’t be stumbling on minor decisions that might impede my progress.
I think of this as my story’s GPS system. Even if I get off course it will quickly bring me back.