Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Writer Wednesday: What's Your Sign?

Writing flows...

How much time do you spend on character development? Is it an integral part of your pre-writing planning? Or do you wing it as your write?

When I first started writing novels, I spent very little time on character development. I knew rudimentary things about my main characters but mainly focused on plot.

But as my writing grows, I find that I spend more time musing about characters than I do thinking through the plot. Perhaps it is a natural outgrowth of the learning process. While writing my first book, I was just trying to get a handle on creation of a beginning, middle and end. Once you've tackled a few plots, you're ready to take on more.

Or maybe I'm spending more time on character because I've now had the experience of feedback from readers. Reader feedback has helped me understand how important characters are to them. The books that we love - the ones we tell our friends about and are sad then they're over - such books are filled with characters that we love. We love Harry and Katniss. Or at least I do ;-)

As I prepare to begin writing a new book series, I find that I'm planning differently. I'm spending more time with the characters than I have before.

While developing my new set of characters, I've been having fun playing with the zodiac.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Working on your character's astrological chart can be an fun and interesting tool for character development.

Whether you believe in astrology or not is irrelevant for your use of the zodiac in creating your characters. The point is that the zodiac provides twelve ready-made personality profiles.

Here's how I'm using the zodiac for my current project.

Step 1: Peruse a site like Universal Psychic Guild or Scan the one paragraph descriptions of each sign. Does one stand out as belonging to your main character? What about your supporting cast of characters? And don't forget the antagonist. What signs are your characters?

Or, if you have already determined your character's birthdate, does your character's personality match the zodiacal sign for their birthdate?

Step 2: This is where I think the personality profile of the zodiac can help you deepen your understanding of your character (and add complexity to her or her personality). Have you thought about what kind of mate your character is attracted to? How does he or she deal with rejection? Have you considered what kind of friend your character is?

These are just a few of the questions that you'll find information on when searching for clues about your character's sun sign. You may or may not use the pre-made character profiles in full. But the different aspects of personality touched upon can help to stimulate your thinking about your character.

Erika is the female protagonist of my next series. I determined that Erika is a Taurus from looking at the short profiles of each zodiac sign. Here's Erika in a nutshell:

Your element: Earth
Your ruling planets: Venus
Symbol: The Bull
Your stone: Emerald
Life Pursuit: Emotional and financial security

Vibration: Determined energy

Taurus Secret Desire: To have a secure, happy and wealthy life/marriage.

Underneath their cool, calm and collected exterior, Taureans differ greatly from all the other signs of the zodiac. Taureans manage to discreetly stay apart from the crowd, even though they have a well-earned reputation for being socialisers. They will let others get close, but only so close as they want them. Some claim that trying to get your point across to a Taurean, should they not want to hear you, is rather similar to talking to the trees – they simply won't budge. And, there is no such thing as an open-book Taurean. Their feelings, fears and desires often run far deeper than anyone around them would guess. Like the butterfly that chooses to remain hidden in its cocoon until it is ready and prepared to emerge, so the true Taurean spirit remains hidden behind a veneer of day-to-day activities. That's why Taureans are sometimes regarded as snobby, withdrawn, boring, or even sulky.

The truth is, when Taureans manage to operate very adequately on their own form of automatic pilot, they can switch off from the world around them very efficiently. And when they do switch off, they are actually gathering in their inner reserves to deal with the outside pressures. This sign is also very closely connected to 'feeling good'. Most Taureans like their creature comforts and hate change because it takes them out of their automatic pilot condition of separating themselves from the world around them.

Because they hate to be put in jeopardy of any kind, this is the sign that strives to create tomorrow in advance, rather than leave it to fate. In love, Taureans are regarded as extremely sensual beings. An earth sign, they deal well with the personal, physical senses and consequently all the pleasures associated with what they can see, touch, smell and taste, add up to a special delight to them. Often nature and pet lovers, Taureans are closely associated with all things off the earth and nature.

A fun way to waste, oops, I mean creatively use your time is to search for your character's sign on Pinterest. I've pinned some things to the board I'm curating for my next project. You can take a look here. This gives you an idea of how I'm using the zodiac as just one tool for character development. If you peruse the board for H.A.L.F., you'll learn quite a bit about Erika.

This exercise of delving into Erika's sun sign has broadened my understanding of her - and given me some ideas for how I can express her personality and give her a quirky trait or two. I especially like the pin that says "If a Taurus smells even the slightest bit of insincerity coming from you, they will walk far, far away." (Via ZodiacMind, Tumblr). And this: "Taurus is satisfied with the simple things in a relationship." (Via Celia G.) These little tidbits have helped churn the flow of creativity. It has me thinking about how I can create scenes to make these ideas come out.

Of course there's more to a character than their sun sign. But I have found it a fun way to delve a bit deeper into the psyche of my characters.

What about you? Have you ever created a zodiac profile for your character? What tools do you use to develop your characters?

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