Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Award winning novelist Johnny Ray describes how to select characters for your next novel

I have studied this many times and taking the advice of so many people more qualified than me. However, I will attempt to tell how I do it and hope some of my writer friends will jump in and add what works for them.
First , with a very rough idea as to what my story is about I make a list of characters types I will need like a hero here and a heroin there, etc. and build the basic building blocks of physical appearances, etc.
Second, I have to have photos of my characters. I use sites such as http://popcorn.oneindia.in/hollywood to search for actors I would love to use. I build a large list and keep it for small characters later, but looking for my main characters. When I find the main characters, I search for additional photos of these actors and add them to the list.
Third, I start building the strengths and weaknesses of each character. I want to know what makes this person different, unique and interesting enough to spend the next 3-6 months with.
Fourth, I start to build what mannerisms the character has. I want each character to be known by the way he acts and talks, etc. I want to know what specific way of talking does he have, favorite expressions, etc.
Fifth is getting under the skin of the character and discovering what really makes him tick. This is when the character starts taking on a life.
An last, my character develops while I write and I have no problem going back every day and adding to his sketch. I do this every morning before I start to add to the story.
For me to be able to tell a story, I have to know my characters and like so many other writers, the magic happens when the characters take over and becomes real enough to tell the story with the writer simply recording the action.

Johnny Ray


Anonymous said...

I completely agree. My only difference is that I don't use photos. I tried that, but my characters never quite fit what I found. Also, I use an interview method to further get into their minds. Whenever I hit a rough spot, I go back to that interview and go through the answers, add another question, get into their mind. It helps me understand them more.

Thanks for this post! It was really helpful. :)

MG said...

sounds useful

jojo said...

Good advice. Your site is very informative. I believe a lot of visitors will find it very useful.