Monday, July 14, 2014



I’ve ground to a halt on my novel in progress. I’ve completed a very very rough first draft but I can’t seem to get going from there. After a frustrating non productive (desperate)  month, I think I’ve figured out the problem. My main character, a sixteen year old girl named Charlotte who lives in Edwardian times, has not come alive for me. She’s vague, blurry, and I don’t feel like I know her at all.

To jump start my second draft, I’ve decided to try something that I’ve tried in the past but quickly abandoned – a character profile or dossier. They haven’t worked for me before but I always tried to fill them out before doing any writing. And I quickly got bored. Would it work better after the first draft is completed, I wondered. Would it help me to figure out who Charlotte is? I figured it was worth a try. 

There are lots of sample character profiles in how-to-write books. I pulled out a few and then made up one just for Charlotte. I went into a lot of detail – all the usual stuff like age, hair colour, height, mannerisms, speech, friends, family members, education, home, employment,  and hobbies and skills. So far those have been relatively easy to fill in though it surprised me how little I knew about Charlotte, even after a whole first draft.

I made a long list of personality characteristics – shy, confident, extravert, introvert, timid, bold, pessimist, sympathetic, empathetic, pessimistic, optimistic, warm, cold, secretive, confrontational, humorous, stubborn, determined, loves company, seeks solitude, leader, joiner, sensitive, untruthful. Slowly I’m circling the attributes that apply to Charlotte, jotting down beside each one examples from the story to show (not tell) why she is that way.

I asked myself – what makes Charlotte excited, happy, afraid, embarrassed, frustrated, disgusted, angry, jealous, impressed, worried, disapproving, shocked?

I’m having fun thinking of all her favourite things: colour, season, flower, music, book, time of day, sport, food.

I ended the profile with a series of questions that are proving much more challenging but I think will help me figure out who exactly Charlotte is.

What does she long for?

What are her goals?

What actions does she take to achieve these goals?

Does she take or avoid risks?

What are her earliest happy memories?

What are her earliest painful memories?

What does she dream about?

How does she feel about herself?

What does she regret?

What is she proud of?

What would she change about her life if she could?

So far, as I work my way through the profile, I can feel Charlotte emerging from the shadows and becoming a real person. I can spot inconsistencies in my first draft and I see places where I can show the real Charlotte. For the first time in a month, I feel excited about this story!

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