When it came time to introduce them in scene, my characters rebelled. One morphed from ditsy to sharp-witted; from plump to anorexic. Even her name changed. Why? I put her in the scene and challenged her and she rose up off the page to become something different. Something better.
For me, constructing character biographies is as two-dimensional as constructing detailed plot outlines before I’ve written a scene. Does that mean I believe in letting my story evolve day by day, not knowing where it will lead me? Absolutely not. I have my murder and my murderer, I know what kind of person my murderer is and most of the challenges my protagonist will face. I have the skeleton in place, I have my cast of characters. That’s when I start writing scenes and discover who I’m dealing with.
The characters reveal themselves as they bump against one another and a shape emerges. Once I have a shape, there’s many ways to get to know my character better. Writing exercises help this process along.
Exercise: Take one of these scenarios and write for 10 minutes using a character
you make up on the spot or an existing character.
1. Character caught shoplifting.
2. Seen with an ex by jealous current.
3. Dragged to a party character knows she'll hate.
4. Late for an important appointment and stuck in traffic.
5. Mate/friend breaks a promise to do something important for the character.