Slaying NaNoWriMo​: Two Questions For Writing Better Characters

NaNoWriMo is back, and like always, I have decided to participate in the month-long, self-inflicted torture. In honor of my love of celebrating my yearly NaNoWriMo failure, I have decided to share some of my most coveted, and not-so-secret, tips for fiction writing. The posts will be not-so-creatively titled Slaying NaNoWriMo. Maybe this will be the year I actually get to 50,000 words, maybe not, but NaNoWriMo always seems to reset my commitment to writing.

Since many of us NaNoWriMoers are at the planning stages of our novels, Let’s start our NaNoWriMo slaying at the beginning of the process, building characters. One of my biggest hang-ups when starting my outlining/plotting process is getting to know my characters. To help me think outside of the normal dating questions box (You know: Where are you from? What are your goals for life? Will you have sex on the first date?) I started asking myself questions that were fun and helped me think about my characters in a more grounded way. These questions when answered literally and through your character’s personal philosophy give you a deep understanding of the motivations and personality.

One of my biggest hang-ups when starting my outlining/plotting process is getting to know my characters. To help me think outside of the normal dating questions box (You know the boring first date questions: Where are you from? What are your goals for life? Will you have sex on the first date?) I started asking myself questions that were fun and helped me think about my characters in a more grounded way. These questions when answered for your character through their own personal philosophy give you a deep understanding of their motivations and personality.

Question 1.

What types of Underwear does your character wear?

This is a silly question, right? Yes and No. Answering the question at just face value tells you a lot about your character. Is your character in the military but under her uniform still wears your Carebear panties? Does your character wear the same brand and color of underwear every day? These answers give you a lot of information about your character, without even going into their personal philosophy. Dip into their personal philosophy about underwear and you have family history, habits, and so much more.

I love this question because it forces me to look at even the most serious of characters in a silly manner. If we knew that Freddy Krueger wore heart adorned Valentine’s Day underwear every day, would he be as scary?

Wait. Maybe he would be more frightening.

Now, I can’t lose that visual.

Question 2.

If they knew they would die soon, what would be their last meal?

The answer to this question can really reveal a lot about a character’s personality. Would they even eat their last meal, or not want to waste time? Would they want to indulge their every eating fantasy? Would they choose a meal that made a statement or one that held memories of a better time? We could learn so much about a character just from this one choice, a lot more than the reader even needs to know.

 

Next time you are thinking or plotting out a character, I invite you to steer away from the common questions, yes they are important; however, ask a question that will not only be fun to figure out but will take you deeper into your character’s mind.

Of course, some writers just want to write and get to their characters as the story progresses, and some writers need mountains of information before they even start their story. Both are valid ways of writing. Typically, I fall into the box of requiring way too much information about a character and using very little of it, but even so, some characters surprise you and turn out nothing like you plotted them.

Creepy.

 

Do you have specific questions that you answer to help create your characters? 

If so, share your secret, or not-so-secret, questions below!


 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Check out the website https://nanowrimo.org

 

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