You’ve started writing a novel. You’ve written ten or 100 pages, and it’s painful, because your characters refuse to come alive. You feel like a puppet master, jerking strings on lumps of wood.
I’ve had that happen on a couple of novels, and it wasn’t pleasant.
Marjory, my editor at the time, suggested that I create character journals. Why not let my story people speak for themselves?
Create a Character Journal, Right Within Your Novel
When you create a character’s journal, create it right within the flow of your novel. I suggest that the first journal you create is your lead character’s — your lead character is usually the primary point of view character.
Write, using the first person — “I”.
Kick off the journal by asking your lead a question:
* “Tell me about your childhood…”
* “What did you do when you stumbled upon the corpse on the beach?”
* “Why do you hate Jamie?”
Then, simply write, as the character. Write as quickly as you can, without censoring. Allow the character to say anything she/ he wants.
As we’ve said, write the journal within your novel. You’re writing a first draft. In your second draft, you can remove the character journals if you wish. However, you may find that you keep much of the material, as scene sequels.
I’m not a fan of creating character dossiers before you write your novel. I tend to forget what was in the dossiers, because I never go back to reread them, so for me writing them is a waste of time.
After you complete the first draft of your book, you can create character dossiers so a character doesn’t suddenly change eye color, or even personality, without a clear reason for the personality change.
Character journals bring your novel to life. Try writing a journal for one or two of your characters today.
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