by Julie Coulter Bellon
Yesterday I had Parent/Teacher conferences for two of my children and as we discussed how things were going at school, I thought of how I actually do something similar at different points in whatever story I’m writing. It’s sort of like a Writer/Character conference for my novel.
How do you do a Writer/Character conference? Well, I sit down with myself and with each character in my head and ask them (myself) a few questions.
How are things going for your character?
At this point in the story, what would you describe as your most important core trait?
Do you feel like you’re growing and learning from your experiences in the story?
How are you doing mentally, spiritually, and physically with the tests you’ve been through?
Do you have a sufficient background to be in this story?
What is motivating you now?
What risks are you willing to take?
How do you see this ending up for you?
These are just a few ideas to point out that it is important for a writer to sit down occasionally and take stock of the characters. The characters in your story, and their reactions to what happens around them, are really at the core of a good novel. You draw a reader in when they can identify with your characters and it makes them feel something---whether it’s sympathy, horror, or just being anxious to see how it all turns out.
Periodic writer/character conferences also make sure that your characters are more than just a part of the story—that they really are in the story and you are digging deep instead of skimming the surface to bring the story to life through your characters. And this little conference can also help if you’re having trouble with a character in that ideas and direction can come with the answers to those questions.
Of course there are generally no report cards or grades for writer/character conferences or for doing a good job. But give yourself a pat on the back anyway.