Friday, May 25, 2012

Character Camping

Last night I asked my (local) writing group for help with a story I'm working on. While we were discussing solutions, one of the members asked a random question.

"What is your character's hobby?"

I admit I was caught off guard and the only answer I could give was "I don't know." The group gave me some flack for not knowing my character inside and out. I also admit that I didn't listen to a word they said  concerning how important it was to know the answers to the pop quiz. I wasn't being rude, I just don't create characters that way.

I've observed that there are two camps when it comes to character creation. Camp 1 is where my writing group resides. Camp 1 believes that in order to know your character well enough to bring them to life on the page, you need to know every minuscule detail of their life: who was their first crush, what kind of soda do they drink, what does their Aunt's former roomate's cousin do on a rainy Friday night in June, etc.

Camp 2 is where I live. Camp 2 is much more prudent. If the character's first crush has no bearing on the story, then we don't care. If the character drinks a soda, we'll make something up on the fly, and when it comes to Auntie's former roomate's cousin...I would rather get my 2 year old niece hopped up on sugar, keep her up past her nap time, and chase her around the mall.

My character's hobby, if they were to have one, was never going to appear in this story. Why go to all the effort of giving them one if we're never going to see it? If I don't need to know it, I'm not going to spend time on it.

So, if these two camps were to be pitted against each other in a no holds barred death match, who would win?

Honestly? Neither.

There really isn't a right or a wrong way to do this. There is only your way.

My writing time is limited. On average, I only have two hours a day so I need to make the most of the time I have. I can't afford to spend half an hour figuring out if my character loves a good D20 or if they stick to crossword puzzles. What I will spend half an hour on is going over my outline. I'll do my best to memorize it so when I start writing, I know what kind of person my character needs to be and what they need to learn or gain in order to survive the journey ahead. Sometimes I'm lucky and the characters waltz into my brain, fully formed and ready to go. But when they're not, I let the story take the lead so I can get to the good part -- writing.

I'm not upset that my writing group tried to convert me to their camp. It's their method and they love it. Huzzah. But it's not my method, it doesn't fit my needs, and the fact that I can unequivocally say no to camp 1 makes me very happy.

1 comment:

  1. it's possible that what group 1 is getting at is that often times our interests are extensions of ourselves. but I agree with you that's a lot of unnecessary effort especially for a short story. so you keep writing how you know!