Character Building: The Dating Game

When I hit writer’s block, seven times out of ten it means I didn’t know my characters well enough. If I knew my hero, I’d know exactly what he planned to do next. If I knew my villain, I’d know exactly what he’s been up to in the background.

So maybe it’s time we writers asked them to dinner.

I mean it. Pick out a restaurant. Do they like classy environments? Loud ones? Cheap ones? Sit them down. Maybe try for the slow knee rub, see how they react. You might get slapped, but all this helps you understand your character.

In this case, the character is going to be Lise. Let’s take a look–what are her date clothes like?

Oh, boy. Well, she’s got a nice…smile. Or does she? It’s hard to tell with the lipstick. Maybe she doesn’t want people to tell. Let’s start off with a joke to break the ice.

“So, when can I meet the parents?”

Capture the first expression she makes. What are her family relationships like? Even if family members aren’t really featured in your story, it’s important to be aware how they might have affected your character. Lovely Lise, for instance, does not looked pleased.

“In Hell, where I sent them.”

…Uh huh. Change the subject. She’s looking hungrier and hungrier, but she hasn’t touched the menu. Yikes.

“Do you like pets? I’ve got three dogs at home, I could show you pictures!”

Turns out she owns twenty dragons. That she does, in fact, think of as owned. They are not pets. They do her bidding to keep the realm in chaos, and serve no other purpose in anyone’s life.

Oh. Good to know. Having a hobby is always good.”

Yes, it is. Obviously, she’s not a fan of the quiet life. Chances are she doesn’t keep her Bio 101 notes organized, either. (Actually, is she the right age for first-time college? Or is she a returning student? You’d better ask, age can affect a relationship big-time.)

“Hey, how old did you say–“

“I am a terror beyond the ages. I am the shadow of every hero, the end of every story–

Check, please.”

So that’s Lise! Get out of there before she sucks your life essences dry. If you’re struggling with characterization in a story, or just are struggling with a story period, consider taking your lovely creations out on a date.

Give your heroes (and your villains) the time of day. See what you can learn from a mundane social setting. Or what you cant learn–you might need to delve into their backstory some more. Ask every question you can think of, and let your instincts answer anything your date won’t. Happy writing!

Predator”by greg.healy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“woman” is licensed under CC0 1.0

19 thoughts on “Character Building: The Dating Game

    1. Why, thank you. The writing process is a different beast for everyone, but sometimes you really do have to try everything. I hope the “woo them and write them” tactic is helpful!

  1. I think you certainly have an interesting idea here! I often dine with my characters to know them better. In fact we have become so close, that I cant call my characters “characters” now. They have become my imaginary friends and we often chat and share our days. 🙂

    1. Usually it depends. I like just about anything if I like the writing enough! As an asexual aromantic, I tend to like stories that feature great friendships best, but I also like healthy depictions of queer relationships. Manga like “Silver Diamond” and “Vampire Doll” are some of my favorites, and they happen to have both!

      1. D. Gray-Man is my all-time favorite! (You can tell because my fanfiction account is full of it, whoops.) Seinen and shonen are the genres I read most, but I really will try anything. What about you?

      2. I didn’t read it yet 🙂 Where do you have the fanfiction account? I love reading them !
        Shonen is my favourite genre too and I love Dororo (the 2019 anime version) and Naruto. Koe No Katachi was amazing too.
        Gakuen Babysitters is cute too 🙂
        Have you read them? <3

      3. I’m on here (https://www.fanfiction.net/u/7714587/Elyan-White) and on here (https://archiveofourown.org/users/ElyanWhite/works), but I only just got back to updating so a lot of old stuff is being fixed. Some of it holds up okay, but my ongoing chapter story never got edited. Yikes!
        I watched Naruto as an anime, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Dororo! I’ve heard a lot of good things, and about Koe not Katachi as well! Most recently I’ve been reading Lone Wolf and Cub and watching Grenadier.

      4. I seem to remember you like Sasuke, and I definitely appreciate him, but I like Shikamaru and Neji best. I think they both have unique perspectives on the world the story takes place in, and on the other characters. I loved their character development, too! Oh, and I also like Ino, just for fun.

      5. I don’t like Sasuke very much except the fact he joined the Akatsuki once.
        I am dire fan of the Akatsuki… certainly they are interesting! I don’t very much like Shikamaru for he had killed Hidan. I think Hidan’s character is quirky and I’ve written a big backstory for him.
        Neji and Ino are good too!

      6. Antagonists can be almost more intriguing than the heroes, sometimes, because they have to have reasons for what they do! Have you ever posted any fan writing on your backstory ideas?

      7. Oh, my. I do on occasion, but I never write about them. As soon as I try, I just start altering the world and reshaping the character until I end up with a new original story (whoops). I also never can handle taking the focus away from my favorite canon characters for too long, I just love them too much (whoops again). Sometimes I do draw them, though.
        Kanda Yuu from D. Gray-Man is my muse–most of my stories in some way start from an adventure I imagined with him! So in a sense, almost all my characters are OCs.

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