This past week, I came to a place in my story where I needed to add characters, and I was reminded of a conversation with two of my students. During our last optional Teams meeting, Nicole (student names have been changed) and Max shared their electronic portfolios and presented their writing process. The conversation led them to reflect on how their pieces originated. As they spoke, they each touched upon the characters in their long-term creative writing pieces. Nicole had been writing her story since December; it followed a teens journey to build her own band: something she hoped might happen in real life. Nick’s writing journey started in September; his piece is a sci-fi story where his main character must save an alien race. Both students plan to continue writing into the summer.
When Nicole commented that she based her main character off of herself, Max said he did the same. They agreed how basing characters off of their own personalities and other people they knew in real life gave them a starting point. Yes, the characters take on their own personalities the more you write from their perspective, but a spark of the real world helped them get started.
Participating in this metacognitive discussion helped me realize that I work in a similar way. I hadn’t given my character personalities much thought. Now, in re-seeing my characters, there are aspects of my main character, Techa, that resemble me and the way I think about ideas and see the world. Her unruly curls stem from my own struggle with accepting my curly hair and my hope to enable my students to feel confident in their own skin.
Since mid June, I have begun transferring my story from notebooks to the computer. I had to revise much of my early drafting because I had not flushed out who my character was: the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of her character. I read that an author should be able to list 100 details about their character–to truly know their character. Writing 100 facts and details about Techa has made all the difference. It also helped me to develop the back story of her father and the microgrogs.
Furthermore, I have recently been working on building relationships between characters. I have gotten to a point in the story in which Techa visits a new planet. After a series of events, she has a falling out with her sister and begins making new friends. I have reached into my own experiences of fighting with friends and loved ones as well as remembering what it feels like to meet new friends and love interests. Not only is my own experience helping me to cultivate more realistic dialogue and interactions, but also I have begun to pay more attention to the way YA authors weave in new characters and build relationships.
I know the time is approaching when I may have to flush out 100–or maybe 50– details about Zed, Kena, or Baco.