I’ve been editing the rough draft of my most recently written novel for the past several months, and it’s been somewhere between inspiring and torturous. It’s still mostly a first draft, which, as most writers know, is just me telling myself the story. The real work begins in this second draft stage, and it can feel daunting at times, especially when the vision I have for the story is as magnificent as a sprawling castle, but the first draft reality is closer to a shed in the backyard.
That’s where I’ve been. The basics are there, but now I need to color in the lines to help everyone else fall in love with my characters the same way I have. Also, it’s just a huge project, you know?
So where to start? How can I make this mess of a story something people will resonate with?
The trick I’ve learned is to get deeper with my characters, and the best way to do this is through character bios.
Whenever I’m stuck in the writing or editing process, almost always it’s because I’m stuck on a detail about my characters I’m not quite clear on. This is a sign I need to stop writing/editing and spend the day with my characters. I’ll write a whole bio on them that includes what they look like (picking actors to model them after is a huge help!), how they sound, how they move, what they dress like, etc. I include their favorite foods, colors, animals, hobbies, and interests. I’ll also write about the things they’ve experienced in the past that has contributed to who they are now. I may even stop everything for a few days and dig deeper with dream boards, creating massive collages dedicated to that character as I learn more about them.
I’ve found this to be a great journaling exercise, and it almost always helps me move forward with the story. A good majority of this bio doesn’t actually end up in the novel (you may never learn my characters’ favorite colors), but it does make for great blog material later on when you’re marketing the novel, or even just wonderful keepsakes to hold on to once the novel is done.
What are some ways you get deeper when writing your novels?