Characters: Detail file or cliff notes

Posted: February 8, 2016 in Craft Post
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Sorry, for not posting on Friday, I was extremely busy and didn’t get around to do anything I expected to. I will post last weeks instead of my writing wrap up and still post the next entry this Friday. Today starts the start of a new series on characters. Why? Without characters you really don’t have a story. Well, not your typical story. Also, because I am a plot first guy and while I don’t believe my characters are not bland, but many who are plot first people struggle to come up with rich characters. So, characters are going to be the new topic.

When you come up with your characters, how do you go about it? Is it easy for you or hard? Do you get your characters down within a few minutes or does it take an hour or days to get just one character down. Do you write cliff notes, just a few details or do you have to write a detail file with every detail about your characters? I am the later. Now, I am not like J.K. Rowling, who writes a detail profile for every character in the book. I would love to, but some of those characters aren’t that interesting.

Why do you write your characters the way you do? Is it the only way you know? Have you read a book about how to create characters and you decided to do it? Maybe, you need have done a lot of research on this and you have come up with your way by merging what you have learned. I don’t know, but I can tell why I do it my way. Just like everyone else could do the same. I am not going go into how I go about writing my characters. Well, not this post at least. I am going to make a case for details and cliff note ways of making characters. Take what you can from each, this is just the start of characters.

Let’s start, start with cliff notes. Why? Well, it not my way. Some people, who I am jealous of as I wish I could do it that way. Cliff notes method is basically authors write down the most important facts about their characters. Name, eyes, hair, height, weight, personality type, etc. Maybe more, or less it depends on each author. It just enough details to help them figure out their characters roles and flesh them out as they write the book. As they write they add more details to the character profile as they learn. Seems very easy, but I am sure it isn’t always that easy. That’s all, but I am sure I am over simplifying it, but coming from the other side this is what it looks like. From the other side it looks, like writers who did this way don’t put much time into their characters. Guess, what I can say the same thing about people on my own side.

Detail File, is a lot of work. Especially when you have a lot of characters and can get tiresome if all you do is write in-depth profiles. To know make sure I am clear about detail file, I mean a detail profile with besides just character description, likes, dislikes, food, sports teams, personality, rich history. A character profile could be two pages, to several pages long. I think mine character profiles are three pages. Some have ten pages. How many details a character will have in their profile vary from author to author. Why do, writers like us do this? I can’t answer for others, but I believe my reason will be close to their own. For me, I need to know as much about my characters as I can. It helps me write this story. It is the reason why I can’t do heavy detailed outlines like I use to. My characters don’t follow them like I thought they would. Others, may or may not say the same.

What about you? Have you thought about trying something else to see if it works better for you? I have a completely different way I want to make my characters, but I don’t have the time to do the research to do it just yet. Hopefully that will change. What side do you fall? Do you even fall on one of the clear sides or are you somewhere in the middle? Let me know in the comments.




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