In Life Before, my YA novel coming out next spring, Xander Fife has a secret, and I built his whole character around it. He also has passions (soccer, Gretchen Taylor, wings from Quaker Steak & Lube) and quirks (a charming inability to wake up on time, a long history of first dates, and a weird relationship with junk food,) but his whole character started with that secret.
At some point, I started thinking of Xander's physical character. Looks are generally the least important aspect of character for me, but they're still important to my writing. For that, I go straight to Google Image Search. For Xander, I googled for "young actors, brown hair."
Googling for characters always makes me feel like a creeper. Seriously, who else Googles "young girls with freckles and long brown hair" or "teen boys with washboard abs?" When I wrote my first novel for adults, I printed photos of heads and body parts and Frankensteined them together before pinning them to my bulletin board. That's what we writers call "procrastinating."
For Xander, I chose the picture of Logan Lerman above. Logan isn't right on the money, but he's pretty close to the Xander in my head, so keeping that photo nearby helped me stay on track while writing. I invented a voice and his manner of moving. I gave him insecurity.
For my current project, I started with a story that needed a character, so I had to work backwards. What kind of woman would throw her whole world into crisis?
Once I have that hook, that one big thing, I'm off to the races.
My very, very favorite way to develop a character is to have someone interview him or her. For an hour or so, I get to be the protagonist while my friend delves into my character and motivations. It's really difficult to find a friend with the patience for this, but it's super helpful and really fun.
And, once I know my character inside and out, I can start writing.
*I was in elementary school with Jerry Green, and though I never uttered that name out loud, I still can't get it out of my head. It's the kind of name you can shed when you switch schools (if you stop picking and eating your dried mucus) but it has to color your life a little, right? I would never actually write about Jerry Green, but someone else with a horrid childhood nickname? Sure.
Photo Credit: That's an uncredited photo of Logan Lerman that I pulled off of IMDB when I needed a face for Xander Fife.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: