Explorations in Characterization

I've been working on the character exercizes for DIY MFA today and thought I'd share some of my findings.

The first exercise is called the TADA Method of Studying Characters (Thought Action Dialogue Appearance). It involves using a "character compass" to help flesh out characters. The compass refers to each axis pointed to one of the TADA letters. By doing this you can see where most of your efforts in characterization go into.

I chose to analyze the current chapter I'm working on. The breakdown of my word count is:
Thought 28 %
Action 19 %
Dialogue 35 %
Appearance 18%

It seems pretty well balanced except for the dialogue section. I have a sneaking suspicion that my manuscript is dialogue heavy. Dialogue comes to me more easy than anything else. Eep! I'll do this with my next chapter and see if the results are similar.

I compared this with the opening chapter in The Hunger Games because it was handy.  Suzanne Collins has much more thought than I had and much much less dialogue.  Interesting.  It works perfectly for the book.  I need to go back to the first chapter in my manuscript and see the breakdown there.  Maybe I need less dialogue and more thought?  Definitely something to think about.


The next exercise is 20 Questions to Create a Character. I answered 20 questions about my character then I picked three to incorporate into a scene I've been working on. The questions I decided to probe into (because they weren’t as easy to answer) were: Who or what makes you feel safe? What is your theme song? What is your biggest regret?

What makes you feel safe?  Fairytales with Happily Ever Afters. Being able to disappear in a book.

What is your biggest regret? Not telling my mother that I believed her before she died.

What is your theme song? “Masquerade” from Phantom of the Opera.  At least the first part of it.  I've always felt that everyone around me (including myself) is wearing masks.  Fake-ness permeates the political arena and I'm tired of not being able to be myself.  It's subtly dark, subtly menacing, and completely confusing--exactly how I view the things going on around me. 

Here are sample lyrics of the parts that really fit and a clip of the song :) PS: Andrew Lloyd Webber = WIN

Paper faces on parade.
Hide your face, so the world will never find you!
Take your turn.
Take a ride.
On a merry - go - round
In an inhuman race.
Seething shadows
breathing lies.
You can fool
any friend who
ever knew you!

Leering satyrs,
peering eyes.
Run and hide -
but a face will
still pursue you.


The last exercise I worked on today was an Acrostic Character Bio.  I used the letters in my main character's name to list her defining characteristics.  Bernadette "Brett" Victoria Davenport.  

B ravery is her biggest strength
R esponsible
E arnest
T rained in self defense
T ake-charge kind of girl

V ibrant
I ntuitive
C harismatic
T houghtful
O rganized
R omantic at heart
I dealistic
A daptive

D etermined
A dventurous
V aliant
E motional
N aive
P ride - her glaring weakness
O utgoing
R eliable
T enacious

These exercises gave me a knew love of my character.  I've been working with her for two years now and some of these things I've never thought of.  Thanks Gabi!


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