Friday, December 17, 2010

Villains and Fantastic Friday Writers

Double shot today! In addition to the Fantastic Friday Writers post, I have a guest post at Breakthrough Blogs. Stephen’s been doing a series on villains and let’s just say I took an opposing view. (Captain Ninja Alex’s prerogative.)

Today is another edition of Fantastic Friday Writers! I invite your to check out my Fantastic Friday Writers partners - Elizabeth Mueller, Anastasia V. Pergakis, J. D. Brown, and Deirdra Eden Coppel - for their take on this subject.

What goes into your character Bible?

I don’t have a character Bible so much as character Cliff Notes. This is the information I gather in my folder:

Detailed background – family, what happened before the story begins, etc.
Strengths and weaknesses
General appearance – and no, I don’t use photos
“Why?” – why the character does what he does
“Don’t” - I got this from another writer. Make a list of don’ts from your character’s perspective. “Don’t… get close to me.” “Don’t… underestimate my abilities.” Stuff like that.
I also keep detailed notes on the world I am creating, which helps me create the characters

And that’s it! Short and simple.

What’s in your character Bible? (Or Cliff Notes?)

(And thanks again to everyone who voted for me in The Movie 411 Awards!)

60 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

I never do that. My characters' traits develop as I write. Otherwise there's no excitment in it for me!

Leovi said...

It can be a very interesting resource.

Matthew Rush said...

It's all in my head. Well at least so far it is.

Ted Cross said...

I don't do that...yet. I think I probably should.

Jules said...

Funny you should mention this, exactly what I have been jotting down :)

Did you get any ice in your neck of the woods? Hope not :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Amie Kaufman said...

Oh, I absolutely LOVE the 'don't's. That's so useful--borrowing that from you, thanks!

Anne Gallagher said...

My cliff notes look more like dialogue. Can't do a character sketch until about halfway through the book so it's kind of useless to me by then.

Christine Danek said...

I've been trying to do character profiles, similar to this. Keeping it all in my head doesn't work anymore.
Have a great weekend!

Patricia A. Timms said...

Congrats on your Sci-Fi Movie Award!

And thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. Love the hair comment.

Sometimes I outline and sometimes I don't. When I'm outlining I do a quick interview of with my character so I can get a better idea of who he/she is. Then I use one of Donald Maass' tools in his Breakout Novel Workbook and I think about things my characters absolutely wouldn't do and then I try to think of spots where I can make them do that. I try to have fun with it. Everything else, I keep in my head as I go along in the story.

Great post!

Glynis said...

I write notes about the characters as they develop. It is useful if I forget the little things, like their birth dates. Otherwise I just go with the flow. I used to plan and prepare so much, I wasted valuable writing time.

We all have our little ways :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Jessica, it's exciting enough just trying to figure out what I'm going to write next!

Jules, good! Thought my notes might seem skimpy compared to other writers.

Amie, I borrowed it, so feel free!

Patricia, I keep hearing about interviewing characters, but hadn't done it yet.

Glynis, whatever works for you!

DEZMOND said...

yep, each character has to have a good background!

Old Kitty said...

Ooh I have lots and lots of pics for my characters - just images of faces as I like to pick and choose.

Erm. That's it really. Maybe I need to expand..!!!

Loved your piece over at Mr Tremp's! Take care
x

Kelly said...

I do questions. I like your idea of "don'ts!"
I'm off to Stephen's blog to check your other post!

Lydia K said...

Mine is long winded and basically has much of what you mentioned. I need it for my characters!

Univarn said...

Unfortunately my character bible has had its pages etched out and a small rock hammer put in their place. Just in case...

Too much time watching Shawshank Redemption :\

N. R. Williams said...

I consult this book when first developing a character. 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. Have some great laughs. Pick the best suited personality for the story I'm inventing and make notes in a word.doc so I can remember various details. Mostly things like what happened to make this character who s/he is today.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Pat Tillett said...

I don't, but I'm certainly going to think about it now...

Hart Johnson said...

You know... I didn't have so much a bible as a spreadsheet until I began my first intentional series. Over a long haul, and when there is some time between stories, you need not only physical, personality and relationship details, but notes on history--what experiences (and background) has the character had--especially those published earlier.

Eric said...

You're more organized than I am, Alex. Generally I have almost no idea who the characters are and I figure them out as the story goes along. I can see (after reading yours and all the other character bible posts) the merits of walking through this exercise however.

Bossy Betty said...

I like to get my characters into situations and they get them out of them. I learn a lot about my character's backstory by the way he/she reacts!

Colene Murphy said...

Never done that! Might give it a try. Thanks!

Charles Gramlich said...

I keep what I call an encylopedia for my Taleran series, which lists all the plants and animals and places and characters with brief descriptions I find it really necesary in a series.

Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom) said...

I like to add in a single event that shaped that character, and add in a physical or psychological element that reflects that event e.g. one of my characters is blind in one eye as the result of burns to one side of his face. It it thought that, as an apothecary, it was an occupational accident, but it'll be something in his previous, more secret career that's responsible.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks, Kitty!

Univarn, that's good!

Spreadsheet - that's good, Hart!!

Eric, the other ladies are far more organized than me!

Charles, I know you're all about the details.

Jamie, that's good!

Arlee Bird said...

I don't keep notes on my friends and I don't on my characters either, but I probably should--keep notes on my characters that is.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Regina said...

*face palms forehead* I so need to do this. Thanks Alex!!:) Your amazing.

Stephen Tremp said...

I do not have any notes on my characters. Nothing. Nada. ZIlch. The only thing written about them are in Breakthrough. I just develop characters as I go long and create internal and external conflict along the way.

Chris Phillips said...

I've done character worksheets.

The Words Crafter said...

I don't have a character Bible, either. I keep most of the info in my head.

I like to know what music they like-it tells me a lot about them. I also like to know lots about them as people, even if it's not going into the story.

Since I was in middle/high school, I've cast actors to play the characters I'm reading about and I still do....

Very interesting prompt!

Raquel Byrnes said...

Sounds all therapeutic, but I start with what I think their childhood was like. Were they picked on, a jock, popular, moved a lot...those types of things tend to color our whole selves.

Shy, guarded, gregarious, street-smart...which will inform things like posture, carriage, snark or not.

I even tend to get gestures and quirks out of it...hmmm.

Wow...maybe I should have been a counselor? Great question, Alex!
Edge of Your Seat Romance

The Golden Eagle said...

Great post! :)

I tend to keep a lot of information in my head; not a list, but a general impression of the person that I can develop over time.

Melissa Gill said...

My characters sort of run amok until I get through my first draft. Then I try to get a better sense of them. I find pictures and other tactile items that I think represent them well. I also ask them a lot of questions and try to put them in weird situations, just too see what they'll do. But this is all done after the first draft.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Lee, depending on your friends, maybe you should keep notes on them as well!

Regina, just trying to help!

Stephen I need something tangible, or my characters do weird stuff.

Words Crafter, I have a difficult time selecting actors for my characters.

Raquel, there's still time!

Jai Joshi said...

I'm off to check out that guest post.

Jai

The Old Silly said...

I call it a character profile journal, and I start out with basic things before I write them, then go to it and add on as the character develops. Helps a lot, especially if you are developing characters that will appear in a series or sequel.

BryStearns said...

That's cool stuff Alex. I know that I need to sit down and write out a "bible" for my stuff. I am definitely more of the let the story tell me what happens sort of writer.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I've tried to keep track of my characters' description, their likes and dislikes, and key dates in their timeline. That's about it.

Kelley said...

This was good for me to read. I haven't written a book (YET!), but I always wonder how all the details stay organized in the author's mind. The one that completely blows me away is STAR WARS! The details in that movie and book series are ridiculous. Ridiculous. I have to learn them all, too, since my 6 y/o is in love with anything to do with Anakin & Luke Skywalker.

M Pax said...

It's fun to read what everyone does.

In include past intersections by the cast with the main character.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Marvin, it does! Although I added a lot to Byron's profile, as the second story begins twenty years after the first book ends.

Kelley, now that I am working on a sequel to my book, I appreciate those kinds of details.

RaShelle said...

Alex - I have more specifics.Yours are great, though. I say, whatever works for the individual writer. We're all different, right? Right!

Anastasia V. Pergakis said...

The love the "Don'ts" I might have to impliment that into my already stuffed character bible!

Karen Lange said...

Will hop over to Breakthrough. Good info, thanks Alex!

Vicki Rocho said...

This is something I always think I SHOULD do, but haven't. I'm more likely to do it AFTER the draft is done, I think. While I'm combing through the MS for revisions, compile tidbits to the side for the Bible.

Revelation Painter said...

I love the "don't" idea!
It got my creative juices going.
NICE POST!

Abby Minard said...

Mine's similar to yours- I write backstory, descriptions, attitudes- what they like and don't like. Little quirks or habits, what they know in the beginning and what they don't know. What they find out and when (this I write down as I'm writing my story). I'll add things as I flesh out my characters in the story too, just so it's written down and I can stay organized.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

RaShelle, I'm sure most writers have more specifics. I major in the Cliff Notes.

Anastasia, I wish I remembered who I picked that up from!

Thank you, Revelation!

Abby, I think we are on the same wavelength with this!

Mason Canyon said...

I'm off to see what your take on villains is. Enjoyed your post.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Kelly Dexter said...

I've tried different variations on this, but it's a practice that just isn't for me. Everything is currently locked upstairs, and will remain there until I'm forced to put it somewhere else.

L'Aussie said...

I have done the character profile thing in the past because you're told you should, but I'm with Jessica Bell - let them develop as you write. It works for me!

Also Alex thanks for stopping by my blog recently!

Ellen aka Ella said...

I enjoyed your cliff notes; I think this would work for me. Key notes and characteristics to help build their character development! I will have to check out the links~Thanxs

Clarissa Draper said...

I am the same as you. I write down backgrounds and information that I don't want to mistake in later books.
CD

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Kelly and L'Aussie, it's what works for YOU!

Clarissa, avoiding mistakes is half of why I do it!

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm so late getting to everyone's blogs. I like your Cliff Notes. My list is similar except I think I call some by different names.

Congrats on the Big Win!

Holly Ruggiero said...

Mine is pretty much the same. I add any flaws or ticks they may have too.

Julie Musil said...

I make character notes similar to yours, but I've never heard of the don'ts. I'll do that! I also set up a notebook and organize my thoughts. If I don't, those thoughts scatter in the wind!

Helen Ginger said...

Pretty much what you do, except I haven't done "don'ts" before. Excellent idea. And remember to add to your character list as you write - so that you're set for the next in the series.

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't keep many notes either - just jot some things down when it comes up so I don't forget!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks, ladies - good to hear that I'm not that far off with my skimpy notes.