Character Sketch: Laney Brennan

blog-hop-buttonI build characters in my head. I talk to them and sometimes I answer out loud. My kids think I’m crazy. They’re right but not for the reasons they think.

I hate doing character sketches where I sit down and write everything out. I feel overwhelmed as I try to figure out if it’s me talking or my character. Sometimes I worry that I’m limiting my character by putting everything on paper. This time though, I think my heroine is so real that even though she has similar interests and opinions as me, what shaped these interests and opinions are unique to her. She also seems flexible, as if she will grow and evolve.

I decided to knuckle down and put Laney Brennan, field correspondent for Metal Fusion Magazine, to paper using two questionnaires. The first I used can be found here:

Character Profile

from Laura Hayden’s “Left-Brain-Right Brain/Creativity Program”

This worksheet starts off with the basics: appearance, habits, philosophy, and how the character interacts with others. More importantly it addresses dominant character traits and the traits that complement or oppose that dominant trait. You should have two admirable traits and one that surprises your reader. What makes this worksheet so awesome is the personal interview with the character. My character’s voice came through loud and clear as I did this.

If you’re interested to see how I filled out this worksheet click here.

The second worksheet I used can be found here:

100 Character Development Questions for Writers

by Laura Cushing

This worksheet is all in the character’s voice. Voice is a hard thing to capture and I need all the practice I can get.

If you’re interested to see how I filled out this worksheet click here.

Final Thoughts

The worksheets took me several hours to complete. I was frustrated and had to walk away a few times. This was after multiple conversations with Laney building up to this exercise.

Laney’s a complex person and I’m trying to capture her using questions that may not always address matters of importance to her. If you’ll notice, she’s okay with sexuality, but not so much kink or revealing her sexual fantasies. I could see her blushing as she tried to answer some of the questions. I tried to go easy on her. Pao says she has an arm on her.

13.5 Things That Will Change Your Writing by Kami Garcia @kamigarcia

13.5 Things That Will Change Your Writing by Kami Garcia @kamigarcia

Feel free to change the questions. The super special feature of this questionnaire is that it includes questions about supernatural/paranormal situations the character may face. Questions about morality were also asked and that gives your character more depth.

Even though I was frustrated, completing both worksheets was a satisfying experience. As I go through my rewrite and focus on just Laney’s actions and dialogue in the first pass, I’ll have my handy character sketch to guide me. Anything that doesn’t sound like or act like Laney will be replaced with her essence.

Stay calm and keep writing!

Copyright © 2014 iokirkwood.com. “Character Sketch: Laney Brennan” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

19 thoughts on “Character Sketch: Laney Brennan

  1. Thanks for sharing the tools you used. I find characterization difficult sometimes, so I’m planning to try out these tools that are new to me.

    • You’re doing God’s work in a way, Ruth. You’re creating walking, talking, thinking beings that should be leaping from the pages. Storytelling is a divine calling and gives a little tiny taste of the delight God must take in us despite our flaws.

  2. Sara Davison says:

    Great tools – thanks for sharing. Laney sounds like a great hero, and i love the way you seem to know her so well and talk about (and to) her like she’s a real person. Which I totally get 🙂

    • It’s taken me forever to get to the point where I can respond to all these great comments. I hope that Laney comes alive for my readers as she has for me and your feedback is greatly appreciated.

  3. Hello! Thanks for the link to the 100+ questions. I’m definitely going to run a few of my guys through this “interview”!

    • Let me know if it made you sweat as much as I did. I would hear this static in my head as I’m thinking, “I have no idea what the worst advice her father ever gave her was. He left when she was six!” So I changed it to the worst advice her mother ever gave her. Some of the questions are worded into irrelevance so change the question asked.

  4. thanks for the links. i think putting your characters through these is a pretty good idea. on a side note, i tried to access your character sketches but the links were unavailable. will you repost or am i missing something?

  5. Tracy Krauss says:

    Hey these are awesome tools. thanks for sharing them. Your character sounds interesting too

    • I hope you get something out of the worksheets. I do it like a smorgasbord, where I choose what I like out of an exercise and blend it with another exercise until I have a plate full of useful-to-me tools.

  6. Rose F says:

    One thing I do is with character questions and interviews, try to break it up so that you don’t get frustrated and bored trying to finish the whole thing. Five or ten questions is usually enough for one sitting here.

  7. Thanks for the worksheets. I’m glad to hear that this didn’t come easy for you, as whenever I try to fill out questionnaires and forms like this, I end up feeling like tearing out my hair. But, like you, when I just do it, I come away feeling like I’ve had a breakthrough with my character. And the interesting thing is, once I’ve ‘discovered’ these histories, traits, and habits, I can’t imagine the character not having them. Maybe it’s a sort of giving birth?

  8. Two hours? Well, that’s not long for giving birth. 😉 These questionnaires look interesting. I love getting to know my characters whether by answering questions or writing a complete backstory. Great post.

    • Oh if only it had taken two hours! No it was more like a few hours this day and a few hours that day, lol. This made me sweat and cuss like a sailor. Thankfully, no one was around to hear it. The questionnaires work though so I’m not complaining after the fact. 🙂

  9. Thanks for the resource links, and I’m glad Laney is living 3-D in your imagination, so you’ll be able to introduce her to your readers that way. I haven’t had much success with questionnaires, because they flash me back to school tests where the goal was to give the right answers out of my head as fast as possible. The whole point of these questions is for us as writers to sit back and listen to the answers our characters give. Sounds easy. We all know it’s not.

    • Absolutely on the questionnaire-feels-like-a-test groove. I did experience that, but after pushing through, I can hear Laney and Uncle Drew and Erik and Pao loud and clear on the page. But it’s not easy.

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