Thriller and suspense writer, Conrad Williams, ran a fabulous class on character building during The Art of Writing this June. It was especially helpful for me because my two protagonists are American and, being Australian, it’s not easy to really know them instinctively, intuitively, and innately.
Enter the Character Bible.
Character defines us, helps us understand motive and convinces and persuades our readers. If we don’t know our protagonists deeply, the story becomes unbelievable and flawed. Character is what observers see in us. And it’s one of the first things a literary agent or publisher will look for in your manuscript – believable characters that respond and react according to their character.
Here is a quick checklist that doesn’t focus on the obvious. Do you know the answers to ALL these questions? How well do you know your character?
- What kind of house do they live in?
- What kind of car do they drive?
- Are they overweight or underweight or fitness freaks or lazy?
- What kind of food do they like?
- Kids? Strict? Easy going?
- Their key relationships are with? (Very important because it can help with plot)
- Work history?
- Birthday? How would they like to celebrate? How do they celebrate?
- Special present they give? Like to receive?
I didn’t know the answers to a lot of these questions and frankly, as I work through my new book, I am still looking for the answers to these questions (watch out American friends, I’ll be emailing you with questions). Unless my publisher advises me to make this protagonist couple Australian for marketing purposes, they will remain American. Till then, I’ll continue to track down a good understanding of them.
Do you have any other character traits to add to this list? Would love to hear your thoughts!