The Fake

Claire is secretly finishing paintings for her famous artist father. Grayson is caught up in a life of petty crime and Claire's dad is his next target.

Natalie’s take on writing real characters

Feb 10, 2015 · 43 Comments

It’s funny to me that Wen and I have known each other for more than five years now and we’ve written together for two, but I never really understood her characterization process until she wrote the journal entry last week about "How to make your character seem like a real person."

I loved her advice on doing character interviews and drawing sketches. Both are awesome ideas and I think I’ll try the interview thing (not the sketches though, because I can’t even draw decent stick people).

I’ll confess. I’m not that thoughtful about my writing process.

My characterization method looks more like this:

1. Write
2. Think about character motivations and try to work out what they want and why, and how they’re going to get it.
3. Rewrite
4. Repeat all steps many, many times.

Steps two, three, and four are when the real character starts to form for me. Once I know what each character wants and what they are willing to do to get it I start to know them better. But, I don't think I ever really figure them out completely until I've had a chance to rewrite and revise.

For example, In THE WRONG SIDE OF THE RIVER I knew that Julian wanted Romy to notice him. He wanted to make his dad proud for once, but he also didn’t want to be a part of the fight over where the park went. Once I understood his motivations, his dorky, charming, brave persona started to take shape. His personality got more defined with each new draft.

Claire (in THE FAKE) was much more difficult to pin down, because as you’ll see, her motivations are way more complicated than Julian’s and they change as the story progresses. I feel like I spent a ton of time getting to know her over the three years it took to write and revise THE FAKE. She definitely wasn't what she is now when I wrote the first draft.

In our writing relationship Wen is the character master. Her characters are amazingly real the very first time she puts them on paper. I love getting new chapters from her because her characters immediately live and breathe on the page and they inspire me to make my characters better to match hers.

So what I’m saying is, you should totally try Wen's suggestions on this one! I know I'm going to!

I’m learning, just like most of you. Every day I write, I figure out something new. I'm always eager to learn from other people's experience in writing, but also, the the more I write the more I understand that everyone does it differently and there's not right or wrong way to create you stories.

I'm curious though, are any of you obsessive rewriters, like me? Or are you happy with your characters in the first draft?

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