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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Character Development: Lifespace

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 19, 2015

Do you lie awake at night worrying about future events or reviewing your to-do list? The other night, I couldn’t fall asleep. Too many thoughts and concerns flickered through my mind. When this happens, one technique I use is to grab a handy notepad and pen and scribble down every thought in my head. This might include a list of things I have to get done the next day or a list of my worries, whether realized or not. Writing them down seems to allay some of the anxiety.

Assigning these concerns to a set of worry dolls is another method I might employ. These are miniature Caribbean dolls that you lay out on your nightstand or put under your pillow. Then you assign each doll one of your worries. They fret all night while you can go to sleep, safe in the knowledge that someone else is doing the worrying for you.

Worry Dolls1

I’d suggest a good book, but if it’s too good, you might want to keep reading. So choose a happy story that isn’t so engrossing that you can’t put it down. And if all else fails, there’s always a glass of wine to lull you into a state of tranquility.

wine

What does this have to do with writing? When developing your main characters, you want to do the same thing. Imagine your character’s lifespace. Determine what is in her head at any given moment in time. Here is an early version for Marla Shore, my hairdresser sleuth. Never mind my minimal drawing skills.

Lifespace

What is YOUR main character thinking about right now? Why are these things on her mind? Which ones are the most important to her? How do they influence what she’s going to do next?

Giveaway! Anyone who comments or reblogs this article will be entered into a drawing for a free set of miniature Caribbean worry dolls. Winner will be picked by random.org on Monday morning and posted here. U.S. residents only due to postage constraints.

Worry Dolls3

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15 Responses to “Character Development: Lifespace”

  1. More great tips as usual.

  2. Good Nancy. Decades ago, a writing teacher at OU put it this way: “Ask what your protagonist is worrying about now.”

  3. When I can’t sleep or fall asleep, I write another scene in my story. I do this in my head, while I lay still and try to let the darkness finally make me sleepy. I resolve all sorts of conflicts this way! haha!

  4. Great post, Nancy! Whenever I start writing,or do a POV switch, I take a moment to close my eyes and put that character in my head, and do just what you suggest–focus on what thoughts are roaming around in their heads. Cheers! Lauri

  5. Susabelle Kelmer wins the set of worry dolls. Please email me with your snail mail address.

  6. mom2mandj said

    When I can’t sleep, I run a movie I know by heart through my head (Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music). That usually works.

  7. Reblogged this on The Serious Series Writer and commented:
    Great idea for your characters

  8. Reblogged on my writer’s blog, The Serious Series Writer. Great tip Susan/Sydney

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