Last week, I read a post on Janice Hardy’s blog about getting to know your character. She pointed out that since she writes science fiction and fantasy, a lot of the questions you are supposed to ask your character just don’t work.
Because I write for young readers, I can see her point. What is your character’s job? What does she drive? Where did she go to school? Hmm. My character is thirteen. She is still excited about sitting in the front seat but has a strong dislike for all things middle school. Like Hardy, I find it more helpful to ask the kinds of questions that drive the story.
What is it that your character wants more than anything else? Depending on your character, your setting and the age of your reader your character might want to. . .
- pull the sword from the stone.
- win the school spelling bee.
- reinvent himself now that he’s starting a new school.
What’s at Risk
In addition to knowing what your character wants more than anything else, you need to know what it matters. What is at risk if your character fails?
- the kingdom will be ruled by an evil sorcerer (I’m making things up as I go!).
- the competing 3rd grade class will get the pizza party.
- he will miss out on a chance to be popular.
Who Or What Stands in the Way
Your character wants something. You know why it matters. But you also need to know who stands in the way. It can be a person, a thing, or even something inside the main character.
No matter what genre you or writing or how old your reader is, these are quesitons that you should be able to answer about your main character. And once you answer them, you are on the way to getting to know them.