Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's Inside Your Character's Head by DiAnn Mills

I’d like to introduce you to a few of my friends.

Sisters don't have to be alike to be loveable.

This is Anna, the younger sister in Frozen. Sincere and optimistic. She’s full of love and a sense of adventure. But caring for her sister causes her to attempt a dangerous mission. A strong heroine, but avoid telling her no.

This is Elsa, the older sister in Frozen. Kinda hard to get to know because she’s afraid, mostly of herself. Rather stiff. Isolated. High maintenance when you consider she thinks she prefers the cold.

Buzz and Woody - their differences make them a team
This is Woody, a nice cowboy kinda guy from Toy Story. Easy going. Takes life slow unless an emergency rises. Walks like he was born in the saddle. Dresses pretty much the same everyday. Low Maintenance.

This is Buzz - Buzz Lightyear to be precise. He’s a 21st century kinda guy. His favorite phrase is “To infinity and Beyond.” Superhero. Walks with confidence. Knows the value of a smile. Somewhat high maintenance when you consider he likes to be in the spotlight.

Be who you want to be!

This is Mr. Potato Head, a man of many disguises. All he has to do is change his eyes, nose, mouth, hat or shoes, and he steps into a new role. Versatile. Low maintenance unless he chooses to be Mrs. Potato Head. Then you need to deal with hormones.

Applesauce? Pie? Jelly? Or feed you to my stepmother?

Snow White - Everyone loves her. Miss Perfect. Always says and does the right things. High maintenance considering she needs a prince and 7 dwarfs to meet her needs. And she’s picky about apples.

Ready for an adventure?

TinkerBell - Now here’s a character with definition. She has strengths and weaknesses, goals and desires. Courageous. Knows how to analyze a situation. Basically low maintenance.

My friends have unique personalities. They show me who they are by how they physically, mentally, and emotionally react to the events around them. That’s how they become my heroes and heroines.

But what happens when one of my animated friends is picked up by a child who has a vivid imagination? That’s when the fun starts. A child has no rules to play except to make the character real, no dilemma changing a toy’s persona to match a personal game of make believe. And we writers are no exception. Unfortunately many of us have squelched our childlike imaginations, so we have to work to get the world of make believe back. I want to give you a few tools to help you create dynamic characters.

The best way to get inside a character’s head is decide who, what, where, when, why, and how. Just like a party invitation.

Who? This involves the most work. But once this part is established, the rest of the questions are fairly easy to answer.

What? What is the character’s role in your story? Does he or she like their role? Did you ask him/her that question?

Where? Where does your story take place? How does your setting effect the characters and story line?

When? What’s your time period? This is crucial so you can establish a culture and vocabulary.

Why? Why this character for your story? If he is a protagonist, what traits give him a heroic quality? Does he even know he possess heroic qualities? What about your antagonist? Was he born with a desire to stand in the way of a protagonist’s goals?

How? How will your character move throughout the story? What will your character do to achieve his goals?

Getting inside your character’s head is not so difficult as long as you’re willing to spend a little time with him/her/it. Take the character to lunch. Play a round of golf. Once you think you have your answers, put the character in the middle of “what is the worst possible thing that could happen.” Sit back, let your fingers fly, and go deep inside your character’s head. But let me warn you, the deeper you go, the closer you get to the character’s heart. And oh the secrets you learn.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than sixty books published.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. 

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2014 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Visit her website at and connect with her on Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest  - Goodreads