I'd gone to bed last night thinking about a character I'm developing for a new WIP. So far, I knew a few details of Ami's life, her career, her appearance, and her turbulent marital status. But her personality was just not coming to life. At three in the morning, during a period of wakefulness, I suddenly realized that she was a huge Dr. Phil fan, and her perception of life and relationships was filtered through his television teaching.
And I hardly ever disobey these middle-of-the-night revelations when my fictional characters come to life and speak to me through my semi-consciousness.
Except when it gets weird. And this was not.
So this morning I hit the internet to find when Dr. Phil was on in my area, and found his web site. I'd picked up a few choice multi-syllable phrases for my character to bring up at key periods, but while looking over Dr. Phil's advice for finding 'your authentic self,' I came to think that maybe some of this material might also be good for discovering the 'authentic self' of my fictional characters. Just ask the same questions and, instead of plumbing the depths of my own soul, make up answers instead.
Decide which of your key external events has turned out to be the most toxic experience of your life. This will be either one of your 10 defining moments, seven critical choices or five pivotal people. Then write a short description of the target event. When you're done, read it over to make sure you are being honest in your account. from drphil.com
So what is Ami's most toxic moment--the one event that affected her most negatively? I have a feeling it's actually an event that occurred just before the novel begins, the souring of her marriage.
But what are her defining moments, the things that made Ami who she is?
What critical, life-changing decisions has she made through the years?
And what people have changed her life he most?
What great things to think about to get a handle on who our main characters really are! While not all of these things will make it into the novel as back story, they certainly will help forge her personality.
So I have my homework for the day. Hmmm...