Author Topic: Getting inside a character's mind  (Read 17384 times)

Offline Smiley

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Getting inside a character's mind
« on: January 23, 2007, 05:26:06 PM »
Hi Guys,

I'm doing a writing course at the moment and some feedback that I have received says that I need to get inside my character's minds more. I have been told previously that my writing has a certain distance too so I suppose these issues kind of link and its something I need to concentrate on.

My question is: How do I really get under the skin of the character and bring the reader there too?

Any advice?

Thank you

Smiley x  :)
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N.Mott

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2007, 05:41:27 PM »
I find it's not so much the dialogue - although that is very important in getting to know the character - but the small actions they make as they or another character is speaking:
The twitch of a smile in the corner of the mouth when someone mentions adultery, or, the irritable flick of a loose stand of hair.

I have a grumpy character in one of my stories, who does a lot of 'harrumph'-ing, talks brusquely to her elderly father, and is very impatient - hopefully it gives an air of unresolved issues in their past, which still rankle but are never actually discussed.

Think of chatting up a bloke - what small actions do you and he make as you both talk about something inconsequential?

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2007, 06:38:01 PM »
Smiley,

The little mannerisms which Naomi suggested will certainly help to bring your characters to life for the reader but it may be that you need to dig a little deeper yourself.  Can you really imagine being that character?  If you can 'get into them' in that way then you can see the world through their eyes.

Here's an experiment.  Before you get up from the computer after reading this spend a few minutes imagining that *you* are a frail little old lady who can't move easily, with stiff joints that hurt unless if you straighten yourself carefully instead of 'just standing up and waking away'. Don't think about an abstract litle old lady, work on turning *yourself* into that little old lady for a few minutes. Think about the best way to move to lessen your pain.  Get into the part and then stand up with all those minor restrictions.

It may not work for you, but if it does your characters will be living the tale rather than you tellling it.

One warning though.  If you get really deep 'into' a character it may take a few minutes to get back out ;-)

Gyppo
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Offline thatollie

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2007, 06:53:09 PM »
You know Gyppo's right. I read about an exercise where you lock you fingers and pretend they're glued together then you try to pull them apart. I tried it, it does sort of feel as is they're glued.
Never make a decision standing up.

Offline Smiley

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2007, 06:28:31 AM »
Hi Naomi, Gyppo, thatollie,

Thank you Guys, that is great advice.

Naomi, your suggestion about mannerisms along with Gyppo's advice should make for some well rounded characters, I have to have an asignment in on Friday so I'll let you know if my marks increase - thank you  ;)


Gyppo, you're suggestion to turn myself into the character is a great way to imagine how she walks, talks, feels etc... As I was reading your advice I reached for my cup of tea then stopped myself and reached for it as the old lady would have done, hands shaking, almost torture to move my joints and you're right, this allowed me to think much deeper about the old lady's  mannerisms, frustrations etc... - thank you  :)

Thatollie, I could do with my fingers gluing together to stop me raiding the fridge! :D

Thanks again Guys, I appreciate your help.

Smiley x  :)

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Offline thatollie

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2007, 06:47:15 AM »
You know during the filming of "The Usual Suspects" Kevin Spacey glued his fingers together to simulate a character with Cerebral Palsy and he sanded the bottom of his shoe.
Now back on topic, anything you can do to get into a characters head is vital research. As Mr Spacey did, maybe I did have a reason to mention him. Wow, things haven't just clicked like that for ages.
Never make a decision standing up.

Offline Smiley

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2007, 06:55:28 AM »
Quote
Wow, things haven't just clicked like that for ages


lol :D :D :D
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N.Mott

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2007, 06:56:02 AM »
Smiley, let us know how you get on - maybe your tutor has some more ideas you can share with us back at MWC :)

Offline thatollie

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2007, 06:59:11 AM »
Yes I need to know what he says, in exact words.
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Offline Smiley

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2007, 07:00:36 AM »
I'll let you know, results usually come back about a week after submission - fingers crossed

thanks guys

Smiley x  :)
Smiles make the world a happier place, share yours with a stranger it could make their day.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2007, 07:34:40 AM »
fingers crossed

But - hopefully - not glued ;-)

Gyppo
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline thatollie

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2007, 07:38:53 AM »
Nicely done Gyppo. Any more pearls of wisdom or wit to share.
Never make a decision standing up.

Offline Tiny Dancer

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2007, 10:13:09 AM »
It might help to do character profiles before writing. Write maybe 300 words about the characters' backgrounds, interests, mannerisms, likes/dislikes - this should then help you to get the most out of your characters and give them more 'life'.
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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2007, 11:34:39 AM »
Someone else asked for help on this subject. They wanted to know what questions to ask their characters in order to get to know them. Here's the list of questions I suggested as a starting point:


Questions to ask your characters:
Where were you born?
When were you born?
What were the names of your parents?
What happened to them?
What were their occupations?
Did you grow up happy or not? Explain.
What's your favorite food?
Do you like animals? Why or why not?
Do you have any hangups? What are they and why?
Do you have any secret wishes? What are they and why?
Why are you currently involved in this story? Do you want to be?
What things/people do you hate? Why?
What things/people do you love? Why?
Tell me about the friends you had while growing up.
Did you grow up or were you created in a lab some where?
What planet do you come from?
If you come from Earth, what country?
Were you born in a city, a town, or some where else? Describe it.
Where are you living now?
What are you doing to make a living? Describe it.

Offline thatollie

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Re: Getting inside a character's mind
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2007, 01:00:05 PM »
I don't like the idea that you can just ask them questions and that'll form the basis of their personality, or deciding on looks before hand. My way starts with a type, from a list of archtypes I drew up last year and am still adding to. Then suit their actions, looks, dialogue around the type. Well that's the plan for my next novel.
Never make a decision standing up.