This week I’m participating in a new monthly blog hop run by the wonderful Raimey Gallant, the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, a monthly event quite similar to the #Inkripples challenge I’ve been doing for the past few months. The big difference is that #InkRipples has a different theme every month, whereas this new blog hop’s theme is always the same, delightfully broad topic: resources for writers. And this month I’ve decided to share an exercise I’m using right now to develop the world and characters of my Big Insane Fantasy Series (which you’ll learn more about soon, I promise):
Letters Between Characters
When you think of character development the first thing that comes to mind is probably a massive character profile. There are thousands of templates for these profiles online, all asking for a dry list of facts. What is your character’s hair colour? What is their eye colour? How tall are they? How many siblings do they have? Where do they live? Where do they go to school or work?
These character sheets have a use, but for me they’re something to fill in after building a character, not before. I learn the most about a character by walking them through actual writing exercises. And one of the biggest things I do is let the character describe their daily life and most important memories to me.
Around the time I first started blogging I did a personal “Dear Diary” challenge, with the goal of intense character development. I wrote a diary entry from the viewpoint of a character–in this case the goddess of death, Astarael–every day for a month. I actually started each entry with the words “Dear Diary”, because it helped me conquer my fear of the blank page. So, essentially, I wrote a bunch of letters from one character to herself. I also posted a bunch of them on my blog, and if you look hard enough you may even still be able to find them.
This year I’ve decided to write a series of actual letters between multiple characters. If you’ve ever read some of the many published historical letters, you’ll know that letters can tell you an incredible amount about a person. Every word written speaks volumes about their personality, their relationship with the other person, their view of the world around them.
If your characters are really interesting and you know what you’re doing, letters between characters can also become saleable short stories. Hell, you can write an entire novel in letters. I’ve never liked books written entirely in letter format (I honestly can’t think of one I’ve ever finished), but I love novels that incorporate some letter writing. I love one-off shorts in letter format even more.
Long story short, letter writing as a character development exercise is a win win scenario. I’ve already started, and so far it’s proven itself as both a powerful writing exercise and a great way to trick my brain into writing short stories.
That said, I’ve got about a million more projects now than I did when I created the “Dear Diary” challenge for myself, so I’m definitely not committing to a letter every day. Or even every weekday. This time I’m not focusing on the quantity, I’m focusing on the quality. My goal is to write one letter from each main character in my current novel. This will help me quickly develop my semi-large cast, especially if I focus them all on major life events. And I already know it will be a lot of fun.
Have you ever written a letter between two of your characters? Do you think this would be an interesting exercise? Let me know in the comments section below!