While I wasn’t very busy writing blog posts this summer, I was very busy writing. And some of that writing was actually pre-writing.
Now, my definition of pre-writing may be different from any other definition. I’m okay with this. For me, it’s not about whatever writing or thinking I do before I start drafting. (I usually think of that as plotting and planning and researching.) No. It’s more about the specific writing I do to help me get into a character’s head. (If this has a different name, please enlighten me.)
Recently I had a male character who was too good to be true. He was whatever the main character needed him to be, so he wasn’t very interesting. He needed his own goals, motivations, conflicts. His own personality. Somehow I’d forgotten to give him a personality. As a result, his relationship with the main character wasn’t very interesting either. And it needed to be. Their relationship was important.
So I had him write the main character some letters at different points in their relationship, starting with the first time he saw her. At first mostly backstory came out of it, but that backstory was important to figuring out who he was. Then I had him write letters to people in his life from before the story, and journal entries about the major turning points in his relationship with the main character. And voilà. I had a character.
I have found this method useful in the past, so really should make it part of my normal routine. Instead, it’s like a wonderful surprise every time I think to try it.
What are some of your favorite ways to get to the guts of a character?