Novel #2 Outlining: Creating Characters

So I’m in the middle of creating and fleshing-out characters for my novel. It feels like a totally new process than what I went through before, and that’s exciting. Instead of spending so much time on plot, this time I’m focusing solely on developing realistic, multi-layered characters first.

That said, it’s not necessarily easy. For a while I didn’t know where to begin, and even now that I’ve started I keep asking myself, how do I choose what goes into a character’s backstory? How much detail should I go into? Are my characters realistic enough?

Of course, there are no right answers to those questions, but I’ve been reading Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress to give myself a starting point. It has some fun, character-building exercises at the end of each chapter. I’ve also found a list of 100 questions online to answer about my main characters that’s been extremely helpful. Here’s the link.

I find it very interesting how much backstory affects the way the characters seem to turn out. Just one event can have a big effect on a character’s demeanor and personality. I feel like this is very true to life, in that people’s pasts- and how they deal with them- make up a part of who they are, however big or small. I guess that’s the whole idea behind creating backstories- to emulate how real people develop into who they are today.

Anyway, for now I’m just going to continue adding more detail to my characters’ lives and descriptions. I’m still not sure of when they’ll be fleshed-out enough and when I can move on to the other steps of the outlining process.

One thing I’m working hard to get is a distinctive voice for the main character/narrator. Maybe when that happens I’ll feel ready to move on.

How much character development do you do before starting a story? Do you go into a lot of detail or just dive in?

Have a great week!


6 thoughts on “Novel #2 Outlining: Creating Characters

  1. Terry Nelson says:

    What a character says and how it is said often reflects something about the character and is effective in development. I have a character, a jazz age flapper and free spirit, whose dialogue reflects who she is. The way she walks is also revealing. Telling or revealing something is good as long as it is slipped in for a reason and does not stand out as a writer being obvious to what he is doing. Dialogue and action of the character reveal who they are because the reader always knows someone like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Victorien says:

      Thank you for stopping by. Your character sounds very interesting! I completely agree, dialogue is essential in revealing character. Thanks for the tip. I’m going to try to pay attention to that, and action, with my characters. And showing vs telling is something I’m always working on. Hopefully it’ll get better with practice. Thanks again for the comment!


  2. Dave S. Koster says:

    I tend to dive right in. My method is to try to come up with a completely out of character (for me personally), off the wall, voice in response to some particular situation. Then, I push that perspective, as if I were attempting to make a caricature. So far, more than anything else, that’s helped.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Victorien says:

      Interesting! I usually do planning before writing, but maybe I’ll give diving in a try some time. It’s interesting that you say you almost turn your character into a caricature. I usually don’t go far enough with my characters and they end up being boring. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ksbachelder says:

    Hey Victorien! For a long time I wrote books without any outline whatsoever, whether it be for the plot or the characters, but now I’m trying to see if outlining helps. I know that I feel a lot more comfortable writing when I have listed any major events in their lives, as well as a short list of any pertinent skills. In terms of voice, I usually just let that develop as I write the first few drafts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Victorien says:

      Thank you for sharing! I love hearing about other writers’ processes because I’m still trying to figure mine out. I used to be a “pantser” too but I’ve found out that outlining works much better for me, although it’s not my favorite part of the writing process. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

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