I love the holidays – the lights, the music, the friendships, the magic of it all! (I’ve even written a holiday picture book text – The Sleigh Rider—for my family). All year long I keep a mental Christmas list of the people in the family– their likes, dislikes, their needs. I have a good portion of my Christmas list shopping completed or at least decided by Thanksgiving.
As I was reviewing my list this year, I was reminded of how important character lists are as we write our novels. Before the actual writing begins, a story idea is formed, main characters noted and for some of us, as was discussed not long ago, a title may even be given as a reminder of the main story line. Then we must come to know our characters. It’s not too unlike keeping track of a Christmas list.
I’m terrible at names. So even though I start out giving my main characters names, they often change, especially as I describe them on my character sheets. A red-headed fireball needs a fiery, peppery name. A quiet shy girl needs another type of name. But that’s only the beginning, because when you go beyond naming a character, things change. A quiet, shy girl who’s fighting for her rights, her family or her country becomes someone quite different and may deserve a different name.
It’s fun imagining who my characters are, where they come from, who their parents are, their siblings and so on. Coming from a rather small town, I like to imagine my characters in a similar setting or one so opposite it’s exciting to research.
Once you’ve established your main characters, described them, placed them in a setting and a timeline, it’s important to decide what makes them tick – conflicts, disappointments, dreams, reason for living, etc.
I keep all of this information on a Character Sheet in Word and keep it at the bottom of my screen when I’m writing so I can remember who has brown eyes or blue, what their name is, etc.
And for Christmas, I sometimes jot down things that some of the “characters” on my Christmas list mention so I can surprise them later on.
How about you? Do you keep a Christmas List? A Character List?