Character Under Quarantine

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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Sometimes it’s necessary to quarantine my main character, not because of illness, but simply to isolate him/her from other characters while I conduct  an examination interview. It’s easier to unearth the emotional and motivational stuff that’s hidden deep inside for the purpose of crafting a better story. Imagine you have your character in a private room, free of distraction and that he/she is relaxed and open to a frank discussion.

Questions I think it important to ask? (For the sake of this exercise, the main character will be A and the secondary ones will be Character B, and so on.)

  • How does Character A feel about Character B?
  • Does A know why he feels this way about B?
  • What, if anything, would change A’s feelings about B?
  • Does B have any character traits that A can’t stand?
  • How does A feel about being in a long term relationship with B?
  • How would A feel if he never saw B again?
  • How does being with B affect A’s behaviour?
  • How does A’s relationship with B make him feel about himself?
  • Does A recognize how his attitude changes toward other characters as the story progresses?
  • Ask yourself whether the storyline improves/falters if you add/remove secondary characters.

Bear in mind that the answers to the questions above may surprise you and can send the story galloping into uncharted waters. However, I think it is important to explore in several directions as the answers may open up fascinating plot lines or perhaps the information that’s revealed can be used in another novel.

What other questions can you think of to ask your character/s about their relationship with other people in your story?
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Useful links:
Alas, I can’t think of any Q food items, other than Quench Aid, a drink mix like KoolAid
and Quaker Oats, which is good for making cookies. I’ll make up for this lack tomorrow. Promise!

20 comments:

  1. This is such a good exercise! I do wonder if poor B KNOW how A feels about him/her? For that matter, how does B feel about A? But your list of questions is great, and I'm going to try that on some of the characters in my present WIP. Thanks, too, for the links!!

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  2. Love Quaker Oats! Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are one of my faves. :)

    These are terrific questions for my characters. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. No problem, Elizabeth. Always happy to help!

    Laura. I love me some Quaker Oats too!

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  4. Darn! Quarantine is such a powerful word. I could have used that.

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  5. I read a great excerpt from Donald Maass about combining secondary characters when they're too weak to stand alone. Definitely make me take a closer look at my supporting characters.

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  6. Wendy, I did a dictionary fly-over to see what in there would go with something I could apply to writing.

    Crystal, that's a great idea - combining characters.

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  7. This is very informative. I have never thought about quarantining my mc to better understand him/her. This is interesting. I love the questions as well.

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  8. I love this idea of putting a character into isolation to examine, err, I mean interview, him or her. Really great.

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  9. Very good post as usual even without a foodie in it. Did you change the blog color? The blue struck me so today, so rich and blue. I loved it. Just beautiful work.

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  10. Cythia, I love the idea too.

    Jeanne, thanks. Yes, I did. Loving the blue wallpaper too. Wish I was talented enough to do them myself.

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  11. Quiche. I have taken note of your Character questions. Great set of questions for examination.

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  12. I love the idea of asking your characters questions. I always try to do an "about me" kind of q&a session with my character before I write for them, because they always give me interesting little bits of information. Great post!

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  13. Ann, I'm such a dum dum. I coulda done Quiche! We do have quiche, not that a lot of people eat that here.

    Sarah, questions are always good, they throw a lot of light on stuff we otherwise wouldn't know. Thanks for dropping in!

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  14. Those are great questions. I love doing this to see how my characters will reply.

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  15. Thanks for your post.

    I'm stopping by on the A-Z Challenge, where I write about the road to hell.

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  16. This is a great tool. It's almost amazing how it works.

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  17. Oh this post is a keeper - I'm going to copy your checkpoint list and keep it by my computer, if that's OK with you (I'll put your name on it to remind me where it came from!). Thank you so much.

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  18. Bob, Thanks!

    Lisa, Glad it works for you.

    Lauracea, no problem at all. :)

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  19. Cool post - it fits in rather well with my A-Z entry for Q, which was character Questionnaires.

    Also, I'm starting up a 'Critiquing Crusaders' program, where participants in the Second Crusade can find other writers to exchange critiques with or form critiquing circles. If you're interested, come by The Kelworth Files to check it out!

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  20. Thanks! Thanks for the invite. Coming by to check out your post.

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Don't be shy. I'd love to hear what you think.