How to Get Inside Your Character’s Head

Writing isn’t easy. Nobody said it would be. Thankfully there are copious books out there giving all sorts of advice on every aspect of the craft.

The one I’m currently reading is Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. Appropriate, as I’m currently revising Part I of my second novel, Cradlesnatch.

Mr Bell says many useful things in his book, but one I’m finding particular helpful is: get to know your characters by listening to them. Write a character journal, he says, to develop the character’s voice, and don’t edit along the way. It’s not an epic. Write in short snatches. Ask them deep and interesting questions.

Now, I confess, I have often read about this type of exercise but never put pen to paper and tried it. So this time I did. Here’s what happened when I questioned Jin, one of my main characters.

What people do you most admire, and why?

Frey, I guess, with his book learning, but maybe Grett more. It was Grett looked out for me, same way I look out for Maddie. Taught me how to look to mine the best caveshine, how to sneak an extra ration from a Snitches pocket. She’d ‘ve been so proud of me finding the tunnels. No one knows about them, not even the Law Man. Make it easy to disappear when the need arises, or move from place to place with no fear of Snitches spotting you.

***

Jin doesn’t stick to the point much, which is one of the things I like about her. It means I can use the journal for more than simply developing her voice.

I write in third person, and some times, when I need to know what my characters are thinking/feeling, third person doesn’t always let me into their heads how I’d like. So I’ve taken to questioning Jin about events which happen in her story.

Have you ever been punished?

Yes – but I had Grett to tend to me when I was let back in the mine. Scarred my flesh some, but it didn’t break me, not like most. I built a cave inside my head and hid away from the birds, but after, I didn’t stay cowered in there. I swore I wouldn’t let none of mine come to harm. But then Grett got took.

***

Another problem I have is that I don’t always know in detail how my story world works, and what better person to ask than Jin, because she lives there.

How does the Count work?

Law says we have to stay safe. Down the mines, safe. Beast tries to take us, follows our scent, or our noise, but it won’t fare down the mines, needs light to find you by. But if a Kinder breaks the Laws Cradlesnatch has a chance to find them, and if they get took, it’s a punishment for one of the rest of us.

***

I’m rather glad I don’t live down those mines actually. It doesn’t sound like a very nice place.

Here’s a post with some more good exercises: Getting into Character  which I think I may try next week.

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2 thoughts on “How to Get Inside Your Character’s Head

  1. Phil says:

    very helpfull exercise

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