I hate character charts. I see them everywhere. I’ve bought books on character development that had 10 page(!) character charts. Sample questions:
- Astrological sign? Who cares? I don’t check my horoscope. I mean, I guess, if I had a character who was all into that, it might matter to them. I guess, I’m saying if it doesn’t matter to my character, why should it matter to me?
- Political leanings? Unless my character is a politician or an activist or a lobbyist, why do I need to know this? Will her views on global warming affect her reaction when she’s forced into a marriage of convenience? Maybe…but probably not.
- Favorite movie? Okay, so I have a character in my current WIP and I do know her favorite movie is Gone With the Wind. Why do I know this? Because it’s pertinent to my story. Because, when the hero left her, she went crazy watching old, love story type movies, and this was her favorite, and when she had their secret baby, she named her Scarlett Vivien–which her daughter hates and the hero thinks is way over the top but she can’t help it because he was all off ‘I-don’t-give-a-damning’ her. This is character development. What’s his favorite movie? Doesn’t matter. It’s not part of my story.
- First memory? Um, huh? Let’s say I make one up. Let’s say I spend a half hour finding one that totally fits my character’s personality. Let’s say I do that. It’s not relevant to the story. It doesn’t develop my character because I just used what I already know about my character to make it up or, worse, just randomly jotted something down. It doesn’t matter–unless it does. (You know what I mean!)
- Personal philosophy? Okay, I’ll say it one more time–if it’s part of the story and an integral part of the character, then great. But, otherwise, I’m not entirely sure I know my personal philosophy on life.
I know people use these, and if they help, that’s fantastic. Every tool is fantastic if it helps you. It’s just not how I do things. I write an autobiography in my character’s voice. I write letters from the character. I interview the character. If it works out right, and the life has been breathed into them, they start talking to me. Thing is, they usually get pissed when I ask, “What’s your favorite color? or What’s your most humiliating memory?” Oddly enough, like real people, they let me get to know them a little at a time.
But, hey, that’s me. What do you do to develop your characters?