Writing Historical Fiction: Characterization

currently playing on my iPod: Yes Please by Muse

You’ve decided to write a novel. You have a fantastic, fresh, tension filled premise and you’re ready to get started.

Not so fast.

If your premise is a good one (character driven and not just a crazy plotline filled with scary/pretty faces) then you know at least some of your protagonist’s and antagonist’s motivations. For example, if your protagonist wants to do “A” and the antagonist wants to prevent that from happening, you most likely have thought of the whys of both.

But to make your story sing, you need to delve deep into the minds of these characters as well as the more minor characters surrounding them.

If you simply Google characterization, you find a plethora of worksheets and questions to ask yourself concerning your novel’s characters. Click on them. Complete them. The worksheets may cover such things as: What is the most tragic event in your character’s life? How did s/he deal with it?     What does your character like to do in his/her free time?    Use five words to describe your character.     Who is the most important person in your character’s life and why?     Where was your character born?     Were your character’s parents kind or not so much? How has this changed your character’s view on life? On love?     

Even if you are not including scenes about your character’s birth or childhood or whatnot, it is imperative that you as the writer know that character’s full history and personality in order to keep your scenes true and believable. Use the questions and lists to imagine your character in scenarios outside the storyline.

If you spend enough time with your characters, they become full and easy to write. They actually take over if you’re doing your job right. That’s when the fun really gets going.

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