A Character Developing Mother's Day

This year for Mother's Day my son brought home a handmade booklet from school in which he filled in all kinds of information about me. He was right on the basics: eye color, hair color, age (okay, so he said I'm twenty-one, but he's within a dozen years of right). What really cracked me up about this document were all the things he filled in about my favorites, because they were actually all his favorites. It tickled me that he thought McDonalds was my favorite restaurant and Star Wars was my favorite movie.

I do go to McDonalds and I do watch Star Wars, so he definitely knows me, but what he doesn't realize yet is that I do those things for him. This really got me thinking about my characters. I wondered how often I only look at their actions without taking time to develop an understanding of their character.

Sometimes I think I understand a character without developing their backstory (because it never directly comes into the book), but inevitably I reach a point in the story where I need to know that backstory because it affects that character's decisions, outlook, actions, speech, well basically everything. I can't skip character development even when I think it doesn't matter.

I once hear JK Rowling talk about Seamus from Harry Potter. She knew everything about his family and loved his story, though she never put any of it into her books. I also loved that Neville's story was so beautifully woven into the series and just as tragic and triumphant as Harry's, though he was a more minor character.

What do you think? Is it important to know all your character's stories? What about minor characters, do you know theirs too?


  1. I got a similar character sheet from my 3yo. He said a lot of correct things and a few funny ones too. He also said I only weigh 1lb - he's my favorite child right now. What kind of question is that to put on a Mother's day questionnaire anyway? I can just imagine what my 10yo would have said. He did say that my favorite food is popcorn and that I like going to the park - those are his favorite things.

    I didn't even think to apply this to my characters. You have hidden depths and you so right about looking deeper into our characters motivations and really understanding why they do what they do.

  2. Mary,
    That IS a funny question to put on a Mother's Day sheet! I have no idea what my 6yr-old would have said, but he did tell me I "have a big tummy" the other day, so it probably wouldn't have been flattering.

    Happy Mother's Day to you.

  3. Interesting post, Candi. I do know more about my characters than I put in writing. And I do sometimes give them likes which are not my own ... like coffee. Blech! But maybe I should "interview" them more than I have.

    One of my secondary characters in Brevity caught my interest, so my WIP is her story.

  4. Wait, so are you saying your favorite restaurant isn't McDonalds? I don't know you at all.

    Yes, I agree with your post. So important to know about our characters even if we don't include it in the book.

  5. Aww! I already love your son. He seems so sweet! And he loves you more than donuts!! How cool is that? :D

    So yes! I also agree with you. I think we should know all of our characters--even if their stories aren't included in the ms ;)

  6. Candice, what a fun blog! Loved the note from Ben, can't believe how old he is getting to be! I still think of him as a little baby not a little boy writing words on paper! Very cute!

    Yes, know the whole story about your characters! I am not a writer, but I am a reader and I love it when a writer is true to the character through the entire book and never loses sight of who the characters really are.

    Why did I not know that you were writing, that is awesome. I've thought about illustrating, but well...we'll see.

    Have a great day!

  7. What a sweet note! :)

    I think it's very important to know even my minor characters stories. I may not put them into the novel, but it helps to know what they went through earlier in life to make them the way they are now. Great post. You always get me thinking! :)

  8. This is a great post. I know with my characters I had their backgrounds, likes, dislikes, and whole story mapped out before I even started writing. Some of the other characters that just sort of popped up were a little less developed, but I still take time to make sure I know them.

    I just started my own blog about writing and other things and would love to share ideas! Feel free to check me out at www.3pointperspective.blogspot.com and thanks again!

  9. hmmmmmm very good question, I take time to feel my characters maybe I should invest some thought into your questions. And the mothersday thingie from your son is super cute.....kids are funny:)