Monday, August 15, 2011

Getting to Know Your Characters by Jeannie Campbell, Part Two

This week, guest Jeannie Campbell continues with her series: Getting to Know Your Characters: Four Questions Your Character Must Answer and Why.  Click here if you missed last week’s question: What is your biggest fear?

On to the next question!

Getting to Know Your Characters: Part Two
by Jeannie Campbell

Question 2: What is your biggest accomplishment?

When a character feels accomplishment, this is a source of pride. I learn a lot from clients when I ask them what’s gone well in their life or what makes them proud because the answer is so subjective. 

When someone tells me that their biggest accomplishment was getting a high school diploma, that answer tells me a lot about their upbringing, their challenges, their background. If someone tells me their greatest accomplishment was having a child, that immediately gives me some indication of their values, self-esteem, and self-worth. 

Of course, context matters. In the first example, if I learn that I’m talking to a former child star who never went to school because he or she lived on a television set, that would change my perception. In the second example, if the person told me they had tried having a child for seven years, that persistence would also help me interpret their accomplishment in a different light.

The answer to this question might reveal a time when the character showed great courage in the face of danger or kept their integrity when faced with the opportunity to cheat. The joy that a character feels from their moment in the spotlight, so to speak, can follow them through their life and be a constant reminder of how good life used to be, or it can be held as a standard they seek to attain again and again. I wish I could tell you how many clients are stuck in their “glory days” and can’t seem to move on because they see nothing of worth in their current lives.

As an aside, it’s interesting to ask your character how far back in their life the accomplishment occurred. How old were they? And what have they done since then? These questions really dig in deep at the core of the character, helping you get to know them even better.

Join me next week as we look into a character’s biggest regret.

Jeannie Campbell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC # 45366) in the state of California. She is Head of Clinical Services for a large non-profit in Humboldt County, and enjoys working mainly with children and parents. Two of her “therapeutic romance” manuscripts have garnered the high praise of being finalists in the Genesis Contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), of which she is an active member. She writes a popular monthly column for Christian Fiction Online Magazine and has been featured in many other e-zines, newspapers, and blogs.