Getting to Know You - Character Fractalling

The dictionary says 'fractalling' is not a word. Well, I did it, so I know it must exist. Contrary to my normal nature, I willingly received a character fractalling sheet from a friend and I set myself down to take the main character of Between Earth and Sky apart and put him back together. I don't not do this on a regular basis because I think fractalling squashes a character. On the contrary, I had no notion that such a thing existed. So, you see, I can sympathize with the dictionary.

Fractalling, for those who do not know, like myself, is essentially taking your character totally apart at the outset, and putting him slowly back together under the guidance of several key adverbs (with the occasional preposition): who, what, why, if, when, where, how. A lovely little cadence it makes. In short, you are doing a character profile the way business folk do it. At first it seems infinitely tedious and repetitive, but as I went along, I realized that each question built upon the one that came before it, and by the time I had squeezed through the inexorable IF and had tumbled through WHEN and WHERE to HOW, Rede was all but a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood figure at my side. He had depth I would not have thought of otherwise, features that were previously dream-blurry. When November 1st comes and I sit down to write that pesky first chapter, I won't be making a character - the character is already made.

I am simplifying this of necessity because the fractalling sheet can be found somewhere in the unfamiliar labyrinth of the Holy Worlds Christian Fantasy forum. (Nice place, by the way: lovely people.) I must say, fractal your characters. Take an hour or a whole morning or a whole day just to answer the questions WHO is your character in his essence, WHAT is your character, WHY is he that way, IF he wasn't, what would he be, WHEN you meet him, what impresses you about him, WHERE does he live and what affect does that have on him, and, lastly, HOW does your character look?

Like any human being that isn't Jason Bourne, a character will have a backstory, a history, a whole up-till-now life's worth of thought patterns which define him in the moment. You need to find out what this is, or make it up, before you begin. Not only does this make for a more convincing character, it makes writing the character a lot easier, and helps protect against those embarrassing moments of inconsistency. Of course, like any human being, your character will have those moments where he acts contrary to the rest of his being and beliefs. We all do that, within reason, and it helps make the character even more realistic - but in general inconsistencies are a breed of bad form. A character's childhood and upbringing define him. His very countryside defines him (New Yorkers, anyone?). Little details which we all take for granted impact us and shape us every day, and they are all very important when you go to make a character of your own.

So take a good long look at your characters before you write the first chapter. You won't be disappointed that you did.

0 ripostes:

Post a Comment