Thursday, June 14, 2012

Where Does Your Character Belong?

My sister, Barbara Federlin, has the distinction of being the only person to read the entire rough draft of my manuscript. As a result, she understands what I'm trying to do and her input is invaluable as I move forward.

When my sister visits, inevitably we end up in the
kitchen baking with our mother. I'd say
we look like we belong together!
She is also a re-evaluation counselor and has thought a lot about what motivates people's behavior, how past hurts effect present choices, and what hinders growth and personal relationships. 

In other words, good material for novelists to consider when creating layered characters. Recently we talked about "belongingness." She mentioned several questions that she uses when counseling people:

1. Where do you belong? 
2. Why do you belong in this group?
3. How do you feel about belonging to this group?
4. Who do you trust to talk to about your feelings?
5. How do your feelings and thoughts effect your interactions with other people?
6. What actions will you take as a result of these feelings, thoughts or beliefs?

These questions feel like the types of questions which Donald Maas asks in Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, which I am slowly working through. And, they also reminded me of a point which Janelle Bitikofer made in a recent blog interview with Joyce Hostetter

"How many times have we heard from editors and readers that 
cardboard characters who have no emotional depth are boring and 
no one wants to buy books about them. It does seem so important to
ask ourselves, 'How does what's happening to our characters make 
them feel and think, and how does how they feel and think affect 
their behavior?'"

Take a minute to answer my sister's questions. First for yourself, 
and then for your character. You may learn a lot about your characters--and yourself.

An excellent online resource for probing your character's psyche is The Character Therapist. Browse through the case notes on the right hand side of Jeannie Campbell's blog and you'll find that she has tackled many psychological issues that your character may face. Here are two blogs which I found particularly helpful: Character Flaws and Locus of Control.


Clara Gillow Clark said...

Great questions! By the way, how do you like Donald Maas workbook?

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Clara. I LOVE his book. I try and work through a few before I start writing every day. Strongly recommend it.

Bonnie J. Doerr said...

Carol, your sister's questions provided me with a new perspective on character development. Thanks for sharing them. I agree that Donald Maass' workbook is incredibly helpful. Since you always share wonderful resources, I look forward to checking out the links you provided. Loved the photo. The three of you definitely belong together wherever you find yourselves.Blessings!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Bonnie. I'll let her know! And glad you liked the picture! Thanks for stopping by.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thank you for this shout out carol! i'm honored. :)

the character therapist

Carol Baldwin said...

Jeannie, I think you bring great insight to writers trying to portray "real" people! Thank you!

Jean said...

Oooo! Thanks for the links, Carol.

Really interesting articles. Bet you know which one was most relevant for me, don't you?


Carol Baldwin said...

Jean- your comment is mysterious and intriguing. Not sure which link you would have liked best....Character Flaws? Please tell!

Linda A. said...


Lovely family moment! Thanks for sharing.

Thanks also for the questions from your sister that can be used to flesh out book characters. I had visited the therapist site before but I had forgotten about it. Your post triggered my memory. I look forward to checking out the rest of the recommendations too. Well done!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. I'm glad that the entire post was helpful to you!

Janelle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Janelle said...

Carol, this is a great post. Thanks for all the helpful tips, questions from your sister, and links. I'm going to bookmark this one!

Carol Baldwin said...

Janelle, that is high praise coming from you! Thanks.

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