Everybody’s got different ways of approaching character development and getting to know the characters of a new work in progress. Some people have basic character worksheets listing name, age, physical characteristics, likes and dislikes, etc. and they allow the rest of it to sort of come together as they write. Been there, done that. Some folks have incredibly detailed character worksheets where there’s lots of room to talk about history, formative moments, even goal, motivation, and conflict. I’ve done some of those too, though the really deep stuff from a GMC standpoint never seemed to make sense until I read Dixon’s book on the subject. I’m one of those people who historically made much more detailed notes and psychological analyses of my villains–partly because they were often more complex and partly because they were more interesting to hang out with that long.
Well, this go round, since my obsession for the year is GMC, Pot and I gave a shot at something that Dixon talks about doing with her crit partners–we have been interviewing our characters. By that I mean, I’ve been playing therapist to hers and she’s the ghostwriter for the story of mine and we’ve been interviewing each other as our characters. It’s really fun. 😀 So far it’s largely been stuff we already know, but some interesting things have come out as we try to stay in character for these interviews. I got a bunch of backstory on my hero that I didn’t know about, and between his interview and the heroine’s, I have a solid Act 1 for HiS.
We’ve been discussing writing up a structured interview to use at the beginning, when we’re really in the get to know you stage with our characters, before we get into plot stuff. Yeah, that’s right, you knew I was going to bring psychology into it, didn’t you? See, one of the major forms of assessment in psychology is the interview. They can be both structured (set list of questions to go through with a client) or unstructured (the therapist sort of lets the client lead), and most therapists use a combination of these two methods when assessing a new client. (Can you tell I’ve been writing lectures on this topic?) I think that for the purposes of using these with our characters, the structured interview is the best approach for the very beginning when you’re still learning your people and fleshing out personality and backstory. The unstructured variety is more useful when you get into the nuts and bolts of the story (because of course that’s going to change from WIP to WIP). We’re waiting until Pot’s copy of GMC arrives to write out our structured interview, but I’m sure we’ll be happy to share it once we’re through.
In the meantime, I’ve got to work on a bulleted list of stuff that I know happens in Act 2 and Act 3 so that Pot can start formulating more questions for me.