Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting To Know Your Character: The Challenge

As a mom of school-age children, it seems that everything goes out the window when summer hits (excuse the cliche). Schedule, routine, patience... yep, these lazy summer days are really unpredictable summer chaos. And with that, comes a lack of focus on my writing and my characters.

Soooo, I thought, it might be fun to take a CHALLENGE with all you AlleyPals and AlleyCats, in the name of getting to know our characters better!

The Challenge: Find a practical, intentional way to get in your character's shoes, to step into the "skin" of your leading lady, or hunky hero, and discover more about their point of view.

On Monday, June 30th, we'll all share what we learned. Perhaps, you'll discover something you didn't expect about your hero. Or, maybe it will give you insight on more research you might need to do. You might even be inspired to write a new that you'd like to share with us in the comment section that week??

For all those who take the challenge, there will be a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card, too!

To give you some examples, I have quizzed my dear AlleyCats on what they've done in the past to connect with their characters. Here are some fab tips:

TELL! One of our AlleyCats writes internal monologues for her character before she even starts on the book. What a great way to get inside the character's head, and start refining that voice!

PIN IT! This is such a fun idea! Create a board and start pinning things AS your character. Whether she is a mom of a toddler pinning high chair recommendations, or a 19th century debutante pinning authentic cameos, start pinning and creating a visual foundation as you create.

WATCH! A few of us AlleyCats write settings in different countries or time periods, and if we haven't traveled there, then it gets a little overwhelming. Check out a documentary on the country (or the culture), or watch films set in that country or time period. Such a fun way to spend a Friday night...and work too!

READ! Got a character who loves fashion? Splurge and pick up a fashion magazine. Flip through and look with your fashionista's eyes. Perhaps your character is a dramatist. Have you read any good plays lately? Like, really read them?

My character is a 16th century Protestant in Catholic England...yeah...heavy. So my challenge is going to be read through the Anglican Church's Book of Common Prayer. Hoping it will get me in the language and give me a better understanding of her belief system.

LIVE IT! As you experience life situations that your character might find themselves in, switch from your pov to theirs. For example, one of our AlleyCats has a character who is afraid of flying. Yep, our sweet AlleyCat put herself in her character's shoes the next time she flew! GREAT way to experience it...maybe a little torturous too. :) Also, remember when you find yourself in typical surroundings for your character, use your character's "eyes". Even if it's the garden, a college campus, or a grocery store...begin to live life with your character in mind.

A great craft book on characters, recommended by a couple of the Alley Cats, is Brandilyn Collins' book, Getting Into Character. Check it out for more ideas on connecting with your character.

Hope you are inspired to join us in the challenge! Can't wait to hear from you on the 30th!

Let me know if you are going to participate, and give us any tips you might have to connect with your character.
Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. Check out Angie's personal blog at


Unknown said...

I'm in! I'm working on my first YA, so I have to figure out how to be 17 again. Scary, I know.

Angie Dicken said...

Ooh, that is scary. :) Thanks for taking the challenge! Can't wait to hear what helps you get to know your character!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Yikes, Ron. You are brave.

Angie, I love this idea. I'm actually kind of living (temporarily) what my heroine deals with all the time. I'm just beginning to take notes that I hope will help me. Count me in on the challenge. :)

One thing I do is listen to the kind of music my character enjoys.

Krista Phillips said...

What a great idea!

For me, I talk about my character a lot. That, and I'm a 100% pantster. As I write, I get into my character and their story, and learn SO much about them.

My novella I just finished, as I was writing the first chapter, I realized that she was a smoker (well, an ex-smoker trying to fight the urges...) I would have never thought of that before, but it came out super natural as I got to know her. My characters take shape as I write. It means I have a lot of editing to do... as I found out new things 1/2 and even 3/4ths the way through, so have to go back and weave things in.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

I'm with Ron. working on a tween novel. I suppose it won't really be that difficult to hop in my character's shoes since I rarely act my age anyway.

Why let the tweens/YA have all the fun?

Esther Filbrun said...

I'm in! I'm working on my first ever modern fiction, and I need to find out more about my antagonist. I'm thinking I'll try writing part of the story from his POV so I can get a better feel for who he is. Have any of you tried something similar? And, if you have, was it helpful?

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks for joining us, Jeanne and Esther!

Jeanne, that's a great idea to listen to music that your character would listen to. I need to find some 16th century mistral music...ha!

Esther, I have done something similar....write from a different character's POV to understand some back story...and ended up keeping it as a prologue! I loved it so much. I think that's a great idea!!

Dark Mother Studios said...

I'm working on a short story about a computer programmer and the most I know about computers is how to use one, not how to make it do all those magical things computers can do.

My sister's best friend from high school is a computer programmer living in Silicone Valley now, so I've been quizzing him and pestering him about everything from how he got started to what it's like now at the top of his game. He's been a great help, not just with understanding computers but understanding the type of person my character really is.