How Much Do You Know?

I was talking to my sister the other day, and we flipped past a show on TV, and I almost said out loud, “Hey, that’s Braden’s favorite show.”

And then I realized that might sound a little crazy.

So then I started wondering about other writers.  How much information do you know about your characters that never makes it into the book?  How much of the things that you know affects how the character behaves on a daily basis.  In Braden’s case, there was definitely a draft where more personal details were mentioned (because I felt that it was in some way relevant to note that he watched a certain program, he hated mint chocolate chip, and his shoe size was 9).  (Those are all true, btw).

It’s great for a character to have quirks.  But now I’m starting to wonder, does it say something bad about ME that I know things like shoe size, favorite show, favorite color?  Because that’s a little specific for a fictional character.  Right?

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15 thoughts on “How Much Do You Know?

  1. I can totally relate. I know at least three characters in my WIP really well, including pet peeves and ultimate must haves in life, what they would do in a situation that doesn’t occur in the novel and how they would feel if they ran into me, or a figment of someone else’s imagination. I don’t think it’s strange at all. What may be strange though, is that my sisters all know my two main characters just as well as I do, and we talk about what he/she would do in certain situations. We quote them (in public) and it’s like we are all in on something that only we can be.

    If you didn’t feel this way about your characters and know them as well as you do, why would anyone else want to?

  2. That’s great! I must say that I am jealous you spent the time getting to know your character so well. I’m really impatient and skip over the little details.

    • Haha. For me, I focus on all those little details so much that they become these big, huge things. Then things get cut in edits, and suddenly I know things that no one else does about the character. 😉

  3. I know people who write whole biographies about their characters. I’ve actually not very good at this, and even though I usually like my characters, I sometimes feel like I don’t know enough about them.

    • I saw someone post a questionnaire on their blog a few years ago, and I thought it was such a genius move. It was like a fact sheet FOR the character. It started off with all the pertinent details: height, weight, eye color. Then it moved onto things like “Five words that describe his/her personality” “favorite hobbies” “skills she has that no one knows about”. All in all, it was about 30-40 different items. I’ll have to see if I can dig it up.

  4. I had a creative writing teacher once who gave us a list of 50 things we should know about our characters even if this stuff never made it into your novel or short story. It was pretty eye-opening and I never forgot it.

  5. Over the course of writing a book, my characters tell me things that don’t always make it into their book. Thank goodness they don’t show me (as in show don’t tell) or I’d be taken away in a strait jacket (do they still do that?).

  6. Someone challenged me with questions about my main character, throwing out the questions as fast as they could. Easy. The key was that each “What is his favorite…” question was followed up with “Why?” and answering was just as easy. The “why” is what matters.

  7. This is so very true. How could you not know all the gritty details about your characters? I mean you live with them day in and day out. They’re bound to show up and insert themselves into your daily reality. And do you ever find yourself taking on their verbal tics as well? I have a character who constantly says “Yes indeedy”. Up until I met him I’d never used that phrase in my life. But suddenly, I was “Yes indeedy-ing” all over the place. And he’s a very narcissistic character so frankly, he really get’s off on it.

  8. I think (hope!) this is pretty normal. 🙂 I wish I could remember this one writing quote I read a couple years back. It was something about how writers are the only sane people who can claim that they hear voices.

    I definitely know my characters well. Some of them have even undergone the “fact sheet” questionnaires that you guys mention. But really, after spending however long (a year for me) writing a book, I’d hope that you would get to know your characters more closely.

    One writer once told me that she has conversations with each of her characters on her commute into work. But that’s not insane…we’re writers, right? 🙂

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