On Wednesday we talked about fixing the big things first. One of the big things we want to make sure we get right is our characters. We want to make sure they sound fresh and original, that they're responding in ways that make sense given their background, and that they don't all sound the same.
Jeannie Campbell runs an amazing site that can help with this, called The Character Therapist. She just gave her site a face lift, and boy, does it look good.
Jeannie is a licensed therapist and writes wonderful blog posts that can help you give your characters a little "couch time." It's critical that you nail your characters, because if they're off, the plot will be too.
Here's a couple reasons why Jeannie's blog is worth stalking:
The obvious, of course - You can write more realistic characters.
You can use a search engine to find out information about a mental disorder, but those results will be very different than the information you'll find on Jeannie's site. She's treated those same problems in real life, so you're not getting a list of stale facts.
It will help you avoid clichéd or incorrect depictions of mental disorders.
This is a huge one. Jeannie's passionate about helping those not afflicted with mental disorders understand those who are. You want every nuance to ring true about the character, not feel cardboard cutout or stereotyped. The same goes for "types" of people who pop up in stories, like the playboy character. Jeannie wrote a wonderful article on that.
Will enhances your plot
It's important to understand your character’s internal conflict and motivations, because that's what causes tension on every page and helps you to create a journey that will challenge them the way they need to be challenged.
If you sign up for Jeannie's newsletter (which you do by going to her site and scrolling to the very bottom), she sends you a free copy of The Writer's Guide to Character Motivation, which is 28 pages long. Excellent stuff.
So when you're doing your read-through, keep your eyes open for common first draft character errors:
Places where your characters all sound the same. (It's possible you haven't fleshed out their backgrounds enough.)
Times your character's reactions seem "off."
Medical or family dynamic issues that you haven't fully researched
Quirks you gave your character in the beginning ... then forgot about somewhere after the midpoint.
Or, um, character's who play a big role in the first few chapters, then never ever show their faces again. (Not that this ever happens to a professional like me...)
Characters who all look the same
Characters who all have the same mannerisms. (Is everyone running their hands through their hair when nervous? Are they all rolling their eyes?)
Can you think of any other common character errors you should look for?