Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Getting to Know You - Character Wheel exercise
If I were writing for audio theater, I'd want to be sure I included spokes for socioeconomic class, geographic location and era, as these can really inform the way a character speaks. I went ahead and included those pieces on my wheel anyway, just to generate as much discovery as possible.
It's a terrific brainstorming tool and can sometimes lead you right into your story. As you go along, conflicts begin to emerge, personality takes shape, storylines evolve. You catch yourself making discoveries about other characters, branching off from the wheel. I actually used a 14" x 17" sketch pad for my wheel because I wanted lots of visual space. The wheel shape helps me kick out of my linear, editor brain and into the artistic brainstorming creative side. It also gives me a sense of what may be missing from my vision of a character. I look at which spokes seem sparse or blank, and why.
My wheel took a few days because I would detour periodically to do a little research, work on and tweak my plot outline, make some extra notes about other key characters. I had originally thought to do a character wheel on each of the main characters, but I don't want to get overwhelmed. I finally decided to let my exploration of the other key characters happen in a more linear fashion, thus keeping the visual of a wheel that revolves around my central protagonist. I imagine if I were writing a piece that would have multiple viewpoint characters, I'd want to do a full wheel for each of them. but I'm sticking with a pretty traditional Point of View and plot structure on this.
How much do you find you need to know about your main character or characters before you dive in and start your draft? Does it vary depending on genre? What decisions, if any, do you make before you get to know your characters? Are there any graphic organizers or other visuals you've found useful in building a vision of your characters?
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