The most common questions I get revolve around how to connect with characters. You could have an amazing story, character arch and spot on protagonist story arch, but If you don’t have greater knowledge of every one of your support characters, then it can really let your whole story down. This is especially true if you’ve had feedback from an editor, a beta reader, a friend, or maybe even a publisher that says they love it, but they just weren’t connecting enough with the voice.
Now, the caveat to that is that could just be that person. Don’t take all the feedback that you get personally, but if you know that you could reach greater depth with your characters, then this one trick that I have might revolutionize everything. You can bring it to the table before you even get started writing. If you really love the planning process, this may be something that you want to do for each of your characters. Otherwise, it’s totally okay if you are in editing mode, or you are in editing the third, or the fourth, or the fifth version of your manuscript.If you think that character connection is really one of the big issues, then this trick is going to help you.
If you have ever done inner child work in psychology or you are more of a woo person, you might have run across this effective technique. Truth be told, you could do this just thinking in your head, but I find that writing is especially beneficial because you’ve got the proof written on the page.
This is helpful if you don’t know what the character is going to say or the story or dialogue just not flowing for you. Write a letter or a sentence to the character asking, what am I missing?
Get into a dialogue with them. Ask questions like, “What am I missing from this scene, from this dynamic?” and What’s going on that I’m not getting?
The truth is, anything that you discover in this process may not end up in the manuscript itself, but it will give you incredible insight into your character and dynamic. Here’s the thing, every one of the characters really does have its own little story arch, right? It doesn’t have to be as thorough. We’re certainly not talking about the unnamed characters in your story, but anybody who’s fairly prominent, you might want to dive into what their motivations are.
Again, this may not actually end up in the manuscript itself, but if it explains the character’s motivation or their point of view and might be just an incredible bombshell for you.
In my series about the Writer’s Journey, which breaks down the hero’s journey, there was one part that shared they weren’t talking about the antagonist, but what they were saying is that often the villain thinks that they’re the protagonist of their own story. Your support characters may think the same thing. If you’ve been taking everything from just your protagonist point of view, it would be helpful to know what the other character is really thinking and what is really going on in their mind, even if you don’t share it directly with the reader. There is some magic that goes on when you have that insight. The reader will pick that up, whether or not you share particular details.
This question is my favorite because I have used this particular trick with the most logical, straight-laced people and it reveals some incredible insights.
Don’t judge what comes up, just get started responding (as they would respond) and see what comes up. Have fun with it because at the end of the day, when we’re trying to get this greater depth, or insight, or knowledge, or connection, it has to be a little bit of fun. If it is all hyper-intellectual, your reader won’t love it and they won’t connect. If you’re having fun, I guarantee the reader will too!