Friday, March 11, 2011

Character Faces on Eggs

Check out this picture. How funny (or tedious depending on how you look at it) would it be to draw the faces of your characters on eggs? Seriously. I know it sounds silly, but could you do it? How would you do it? What makes your characters, YOUR characters yet THEIR own person?
This week on Oasis for YA, I discussed Voice: how it defines a character, how to use it, and ways to improve voice in your writing. The piece revolved around characters. 

Character as Setting ~ This is a fantastic post by Literary Agent Vickie Motter. She gives concrete examples of when setting, used as a character itself, can positively fuel a story. My thought was, "How do you know when you've accomplished this?" She mentions taking your story out of the current setting and plugging it into another setting. If the story doesn't work in the new setting, then you've accomplished 'setting as a character' in your story.

PK Hrezo of My Fiction Addiction posted some interesting questions every writer can ask themselves about their character(s) to get to know them better. In order to write about them and speak for them, you MUST know them. They come from the writing course she's taking taught by best-selling Author Bob Mayer.

I'm going to post each question and use one of my characters, Viktor, to answer each for myself. Feel free to play along with one of your characters and tell me if you discovered anything new.

1.  What is the identity your character shows the world?
Well, seeing how he's hiding, I'd say he shows quiet arrogance.
2.  What identity does this character claim for himself? How does he/she view themselves?
He's guilt-ridden and, even after all these years, still angry about living under the constraints of his cures. He views himself as unworthy of a cure, after everything he's done.
3.  What truth is buried so deep, your MC doesn't even realize it?

Although he's been forced to do things he didn't want that hurt others, his heart has always been in the right place.
 What first impression does your MC create?

Excluding him being cute, he seems stuck-up and mysterious.
5.  How would your character's acquaintances describe him/her?

Odd, distant, and weird...
6.  What circumstance would make him/her act contrary to his norm?

 If he finds someone to love him despite his wrong-doings, and they are in danger.  

Dah, dah, dah!! So I did it. Now you give it a try. This is really great when you're starting a new WIP or bringing in a new character to your story. If the character is a new one being introduced into a WIP, try adding a few questions like:

1. Does this person fit into a stereotype already in the cast of characters?
2. How would this person react to pain, joy, teasing, etc..?
3. What is this person's purpose? Outward motivation? 
4. Does this person's inner motivations matter to the story? If so, how?
5. How will this character interact with those already established?

Remember, you are in the driver's seat of your characters. They are people you'd want to know or not; want in your life or not. They are the annoying driver who drives way to slow in front of you every morning while you're rushing your kids to school, or the sweet cashier at the convenience store who always has a smile on her face.

What do you like about them? What annoys you? Use your experiences in real like to relate to your characters--even when the character is setting. There are plenty of real-life settings that annoy or comfort me. Yes, I chat with my make believe folks all the time. I like them...or I like to hate them. Either way, I MUST build each a solid foundation if I expect them to stand on their own and make the reader say, "I think I've met this guy before."

And maybe you'll decide to give that egg painting experiment a try. Just picture how much fun it'd be getting rid of the characters you don't like. Oh, the egg-drama. 


  1. I am definitely not trying to draw. Great post on Oasis for YA on voice. And here too. It's so timely for me because I must go through my manuscript one more time to nail the voice. It's something I struggle with and I need to psych myself up to do it.

  2. I'm no artist so that would be tedious. Thanks for the questions. I will try that.
    Have a great weekend!

  3. That's a good exercise. And I'm such a perfectionist, it would take me forever to do all of those eggs.

  4. Oh dear Lord, no. Painting my characters onto eggs would be way too challenging. Not so much because I don't find them all unique in my mind, but . . .

    1) I'm not that artistically gifted.

    2) I would suffer a major breakdown if I accidently cracked one of my character's heads.

  5. I'm with Tracy on both counts. :D

    Great post. As I was reading it, I realized I already know these things about my characters in my wip without having to write it down. I apparently know them that well. :D

    I'm off to check out your voice post. I somehow missed it. :P

  6. I'm also with Tracy!

    When I came up with the idea for my YA set in Rwanda, I thought of the setting as a character. Definitely. It's an unusual setting and the book as I've written it couldn't take place anywhere else. Yet some of the main character's struggles are universal and could happen anywhere.

    Great post!

  7. I'll bite!

    1. What is the identity your character shows the world?
    Moody and Dangerous
    2. What identity does this character claim for himself? How does he/she view themselves?
    Misunderstood. He’s tired of everyone always thinking the worst of him.
    3. What truth is buried so deep, your MC doesn't even realize it?
    That even though he didn’t have his own parents or a normal family growing up, it doesn’t make his foster family any less real.
    4. What first impression does your MC create?
    Good looking but surly and unapproachable
    5. How would your character's acquaintances describe him/her?
    Moody, funny but often times introverted
    6. What circumstance would make him/her act contrary to his norm?
    He’s surprised when people see his potential and don’t treat him with fear.

  8. Wow. Great, great post Sheri! I'll have to use these questions with the characters from my new project. :-)

  9. I was asked similar questions in a writing class last spring and it really helped me look at all my characters in a new light. Great advice for anyone.

    As far as eggs... I pretty much get anxiety every Easter as is. Haha I don't think I could swing face art. ;)

  10. these are aweseome--I love exercises like this b/c you're right. The better you know your characters, the easier it is to write them. Great stuff here, Sher! Thanks~ :o) <3

  11. Good answers, my dear! I saw her questions and got tripped up on #3 (still am)!

  12. This is awesome! I'm always looking for ways to further my character development. Thanks, I'm bookmarking this

  13. This is a great exercise.... I'm an illustrator too, so I would rather draw out my characters and i did on my first novel. I illustrated the cover and each chapter.

    SOME EGGcelent characters....LOL


  14. All "egg-stremely" valuable questions. (Sorry, couldn't help myself!)

  15. This is awesome! I'm always looking for ways to further my character development. Thanks, I'm bookmarking this.

  16. I love the eggs! What's sad is someone is going to have to smash all those eggs!

    Love the questions. I'm going to use them with my next WIP. Thanks!

  17. So many great exercises for my characters to do to get into shape. I think I could paint my characters on eggs. Yep, I know them pretty well, they have been living with me long enough. But it does sound like they have some answering to do. Interrogation time!!

  18. Thanks for the post and mentioning my questions on character. I never thought of painting faces on eggs, although Jenny Crusie does do collages for her books.

  19. What a fun and yet powerful exercise! Super post, Sheri!

  20. Great links and writing exercise, Sheri! Thanks so much. :)

  21. I just got a rejection on a full that suggested I "strengthen" my writing, so I'm willing to try anything - heck, if drawing on an egg helps, I'm willing to do a few dozen! ;)

    Sorry we're behind on following our Crusade group buddies - here we are and we posted the list on our blog today, too.

  22. What a fun idea to paint on all the eggs, though how time consuming!!!

    I'm willing to try anything to help improve my writing no matter what it is!

  23. Those eggs are hilarious! I'm off to check out Vickie Motter's and PK's blog posts. Thanks for the links!

  24. Hehe. Those eggs are hilarious. I'd probably break too many trying to draw my characters, though!


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