6 Questions to Define Your Characters: My Take
By A P von K’Ory
As writers we’re familiar with the five basic elements in every story: character, setting, plot, conflict and resolution. Writer Lekic suggests six questions all writers should ask themselves to help them better define their characters. I used them to a great extent in writing Shana and Roman’s story in the Golden Shana Series. Below is my take.
1. Why is the character unhappy with his or her current life?
I tend to do the contrary – I make the character as happy as a lark, to start with, then find a way to mess up that joy thoroughly and have them go through all the nasty processes in order to figure out how to achieve that sublime happiness again. This is what I do with Shana and Roman in the Golden Shana Series.
2. What does the character want to happen to change his or her circumstances?
When I get Shana and Roman to meet for the first time, I intentionally make their meeting place the world’s most famous and revered opera house, La Scala in Milan. This very symbol of culturedness, success, elitism and wealth becomes the kickoff of their beautiful and carefree life suddenly making them aware that they have feelings, emotions deeper than spectacular opulence and comfort. I want them suddenly confronted with their abject internal poverty. That constituted a more compelling challenge to me (and my protagonists) than the well-trod rugs-to-riches. I wanted a figurative riches-to-rugs story.
3. Why hasn't the character done so already?
In Shana and Roman, I create two people who have never really known basic unhappiness in an existential sense. Their wealth and social standing offer them joy, pleasure, privilege and power. Until they meet and are confronted with a new state of being: the lack of those privileges and power in their internal well-being. From the fairytale castle right into the sinister forest they can’t escape for all the trees and lack of experience.
4. What steps must the character take to achieve his or her goal?
In my story, Roman’s first reaction is his usual Alpha billionaire I-get-whatever-I-want. When this strategy fails he realizes he needs to change tack. When that, too, fails and he still can’t walk away and forget his goal, he realizes he’s up against a totally different “need” deep within him that demands he recognizes it and changes himself in order to reach his goal. The zillionaire Shana, on the other hand, has her demons when it comes to men. She, too, has to recognize that there are men, other than precious Pappa and her brothers, who are trustworthy and full of honourable intentions. She has to come to terms with the fact that the infamous global womanizer and Europe’s heartthrob, Roman Castell, is capable of genuine love. She has to learn to relinquish control and accept the important bond of fealty and loyalty to a man outside her family.
5. What stands in his or her way?
Each writer has to decide on this in accordance with their story and plot. I can’t reveal all of mine here for fear of the infamous plot spoiler alert!
6. What will motivate the character to persevere?
And here we come (miraculously!) to the resolution, which takes us full circle back to the where we began: Why the character is unhappy, and what he or she is willing to sacrifice in order to be happy. How they do this brings in the suite of conflicts and constitutes the story.