A couple weeks ago, while I was reinventing Lizzie's parents, I discovered a new method of brainstorming. Okay, so maybe someone else thought of it before I did, but it was new to me. This method is what I like to call "Character Texting". You essentially have a texting conversation with your character. I do this through a Word doc. The way I started Character Texting was I randomly typed the sentence "Okay, Mrs. Evans, what will you be?" into the Word doc I was putting all her character info in. Then she responded. And we got a little conversation going. I find this method to be much more productive than staring at the computer and thinking. "Do I want her to be a realtor? A interior designer? A jelly maker?" and only typing it down once I've decided. Through Character Texting I can ask her what she wants to be, and get her opinion. Also, it kills two nargles with one stone, since I also get insight as to how she would say things. Sure, I'm texting someone who doesn't exist and asking them what they want to be and looking at how they see the world, but it works. And instead of thinking of her as part of me (she's MY character), I think about her as her own person, and she becomes more of herself. Yeah, it's crazy and a bit schizophrenic, but I'm beginning to think that no really good fiction can come from someone entirely sane.
To give you an example of how I Character Text, I shall hold a brief conversation with Lizzie (a teen sleuth and main character in my WIP).
Me: Lizzie. You need a motive.
Liz: Yes, I know. I'm kinda pathetic in my story at the moment. What happened to the subplot you had going with Joe? I was looking forward to meeting a character who carved coffins for a living. Especially since he was dating my sister, and I could tease her about it.
Me: I decided not to do it. But I am saving it for a later story. Besides, it didn't really give you a motive anyway. It could have worked for Lainie, but not for you.
Liz: True. I think I cooperate with the police too much.
Me: Agreed. Maybe I ought to give you your own lead to follow.
Liz: That could work. Which lead? One that's in the story already, or a new one? And am I right or wrong?
Me: I don't know. I think having you be partially right would be fun.
Liz: Yeah, for you.
Me: And the readers.
Me: Sigh... ya know, if I spelled that Sygh, it'd be a good name. Or maybe Syghe....
Liz: Solston to Lily! Can we please stay in my story world?
Me: Yeah, sorry. I like having you be partially right. Maybe you misinterpret a piece of evidence.
Liz: That could work. But the question still remains: New lead, or old lead?
Me: Hmm. I never piled any good evidence against the actual bad guys, and the police certainly don't have enough reason to follow them....
Liz: But you could fix that. I'm not sure I want to follow the real bad guys. I don't like them.
Me: Do you like any of the bad guys?
Liz: Well, no. But I really don't like them. They're kinda...scary. You don't show that in the story, but I've been in your head long enough to know what they're like. You had talked about my motive being a combination of hyper curiosity and a strong sense of justice, and if you stick with that, I need to follow a lead that is more puzzling and intriguing than scary. You have to make me want to solve the mystery. I like solving puzzles, so give me a puzzle to solve.
Me: The whole story is a puzzle.
Liz: Yeah, but all I do, especially in the latter half of the story is say "Oh, look, this evidence goes here. I better call the police! I overheard something that might solve the mystery, I better call the police!" Over, and over, and over again. I hate to say it, Lil, but story-me is BORING! She's a good citizen, sure, but she's boring.
Me: I hadn't looked at it like that. But I want you to be an admirable character.
Liz: There are ways of making me admirable the way you want me to be without making me boring....
There's more to this conversation, but it got kinda long. I started typing and Lizzie got vocal. It really helped with my story.
What do you think of Character Texting? Give it a try and let me know how it works out!