Fantastic Friday Writers - Connecting with Your MCs

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Happy Friday everyone! It is time for another Fantastic Friday Writers post! This one is one of my favorite things to talk about, as many of my older followers would know.

How do I connect with my main characters on a personal level?

Most all of my stories are very character driven. My characters come to me and say "Hey, I have a story I want to tell you." Then I just write it down as they tell me. I do think of plots and play the "What if" game, but usually those ideas continue to sit in the idea notebook. It seems I can't write any story until I have the characters talking to me about it first.

In order to get to know my characters after they initially introduce themselves, I do a short interview to get the basics. You can see an example of one here that I did for a blogfest about a character that showed up unexpectantly in one of my stories.

Then I sit down and write a very detailed character sketch. I did a few posts a while back about the character worsheet I write up and you can find the first one here. The character sketch also includes an avatar that I make for a general visual of what the character looks like. Sometimes I might also search for images for the character - either a protrait or just a symbol that represents them. I cut them out and glue them into the margins of the character sketch sheet.

Recently, I have also done timelines for the characters. The timeline (done with an excel sheet) covers every moment of their life from when they were born. Now, I don't get crazy detailed with this, but it does help to keep track of important things like graduations, weddings, or even a time when they broke their arm. You can read more details of the timeline setup I use here.

After the 'paperwork' is out of the way, I just sit down and talk to my character. I'm usually writing the story at this point. I always learn new things about my characters as time goes along. I take notes of anything new I learn that might be important or if it spurs an idea for a scene. Then I add in the scene or idea as I'm finishing the first draft or I wait until I'm editing.

I think the most fun I have with getting to know my characters is simply talking to them. My best friend Jen and I also have 'character parties' where she brings her characters and I bring mine and we watch the fun unfold as they interact with each other. It's great fun and I've learned a great deal about my characters this way - since it's all on the fly and in a situation that mostly likely won't happen in my actual book. (Esp considering my characters are faeries and her are vampires.)

But it is still information I can use. It helps me really get to the bottom of who and what their motivations are. Jen and I have way too much fun with this actually, and we even created a blog where our characters can let it all out. It originally was called Life and Times of Imaginary People on wordpress. But we have since moved it to blogger and changed the name to "The Character Cafe"

My characters are very real to me and they all have become some of my very best friends. I'm a firm believer that if you don't love your characters, than neither will your readers. And what better way to fall in love with them, then to talk to them and REALLY get to know them?

Now, I do conduct a little bit of research into some of my characters. I do this in order to try and break the "norm". Like my faeries for example don't help things grow or change the seasons and they are nothing like Tinker Bell or the ones in Fern Gully. I did this on purpose.

How do you connect personally with your MCs?

Don't forget to hop over to the rest of the Fantastic Friday Writers!

14 Responses to "Fantastic Friday Writers - Connecting with Your MCs"

Saumya Says :
December 3, 2010 at 10:21 AM

This is such a great post. I try to connect with my characters by unveiling their insecurities. Maybe that sounds weird but I feel that what people are insecure about reveals so much! I also make Power Points that include pictures, quotes, outfits, etc. that may apply to them!

Arlee Bird Says :
December 3, 2010 at 11:29 AM

I'm here via Alex's blog and am now a follower.

Enjoyed hearing about your attentive process to developing your characters. I would probably be well served to take the time to approach this as you do. I do become very attached to my characters thru a mental connection. They usually develop as I write and I tend to start trying to think about them a lot during the period when I am writing about them.
I really like story, but in some ways I prefer character even more.

Tossing It Out

Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
December 3, 2010 at 11:37 AM

Saumya: You're absolutely right. Learning a characters insecurities tells so much about them. Power Points sounds like an interesting idea! I create character notebooks that could be a PP presentation if I set it up that way, but the three ring binder set up works better for my brain I think. LOL Thanks for stopping by!

Arlee: Thank you for commenting and following! Means a lot to me. I become very attached to my characters too and I get very emotional when a story reaches the end, because I'm afraid they will leave me! hehe Sometimes I prefer character more too, especially when they are so great they stick with you long after the story is over.

N. R. Williams Says :
December 3, 2010 at 1:20 PM

An interesting method. I start thinking of a story I'd like to tell and then go in search of the characters who will live it. Once I've done that, I do spend a lot of time developing the characters and listening to their voices.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Alex J. Cavanaugh Says :
December 3, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Never thought about interacting my character with someone else's.
So much preparation! Next to you girls, I'm using crayons and a compass.

Alex J. Cavanaugh Says :
December 3, 2010 at 2:31 PM

Oh, and thanks so much for what you said about my book!

Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
December 3, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Nancy: Yes, listening to their voices is important. Like I said, I do have a few plot ideas, just don't have characters to go with it at the moment. I'm just used to them showing up, so I don't know how to go looking for the characters myself. :)

Alex: You should try it Alex! It's great fun. Especially since my faeries aren't from Earth as we know it, it's fun to stick them in like a bowling alley and see what they do! And you're welcome! Once I read it, I'll rope you into an interview for my blog here! ;)

J. D. Brown Says :
December 3, 2010 at 11:50 PM

OMG Anna you know what I just realized? I need to introduce my new siren characters to the group! Won't that be fun?! Great post as always babes. :)

Elizabeth Mueller Says :
December 4, 2010 at 12:24 AM

I really love that Character Cafe idea! Do you write scenes or dialogues between our MCs or do you go on actual chatlines and bring them to life there?

Great post!

Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
December 4, 2010 at 2:55 PM

JD: Yes you do! I think we should make it that all of our characters can chat or blog. I think it would make it more fun that way.

Elizabeth: We do have chat lines between the characters (J.D.'s vampires and my faeries talk to each other A LOT). But on the Character Cafe, the bloggers are the characters - not us. We let them basically take control of our bodies and write a blog post from their POV about a certian topic or whatever they feel like talking about. It's great fun for sure and really let's us connect with our MCs

Emailman Says :
December 5, 2010 at 2:09 PM

What a fantastic post!!! Character parties, how funny :) I bet that is a good laugh.

Being a pantser, I couldn't do all this myself or I would never actually write connected personally with my MC by basing the MC on a real life person that meant a lot to me. It panned out really well, as all my readers love her as much as I do.

Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
December 5, 2010 at 9:52 PM

Kurt: Yes, the character parties do get crazy and can be a great procrastination tool! But, it does help me a great deal really connect with my characters, so it's not ALL bad. :)

Eric W. Trant Says :
December 6, 2010 at 4:27 PM

That sounds like my D&D days, sketches and everything, with ad hoc adventures.

It certainly opens up your characters, and gives you that background info you need to write a deeper character. I believe the backstory should be felt, not heard, so you'll have a lot of material you never have to write, but the reader will sense it is there.

- Eric

Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
December 6, 2010 at 5:39 PM

Eric: Yes it sure does help to write a deeper character. The material we never have to write - love that part. But that is why I started my new blog, the Character Cafe, where my characters get to post themselves, and talk about those 'unwritten' things.

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