Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Character Chatting: How to Do It and How it Benefits Your Writing

Most of you reading this are probably thinking, "What the heck is 'Character Chatting'?" I thought the same thing when I first heard about it, but let me tell you it is a very fun, helpful, and addicting activity for writers. My friends and I who do it find it helpful to test run our ideas; develop settings and characters; tap into the subconscious; and get our heads back into the writing mode after a hiatus.

Here's how it works:

You need:
1.) A laptop or computer
2.) A writing buddy with a laptop or computer
3.) An internet connection
4.) A Yahoo!, Facebook, Gmail account or any online account with an instant messenger

Basically, you chat with your writing friend on these accounts as your characters. You chat like they'd talk and move. My friends and I put actions and description between asterisks to separate them from speech. There are two ways to character chat that I've discovered. I call them the Yahoo! Method and the Facebook Method.

In the Facebook, you put the character's name before colons to define the speaker.
For example:
Sarah: *smiles* Hey.
Marty: How are you?
Sarah: *shrugs* I'm okay.
Marty: *sits beside her on the bench* What's wrong?
Sarah: Nothing.

My personal favorite is the Yahoo! Method, because instead of having to type the characters' names all the time, you pick colors for each character, which makes the chat box pretty. ;)
For example:

1.) Have a plan! - Plan out a basic idea with your writing partner of what your characters are going to do. For example: Have a bad guy of your partner kidnap one of your characters, so your characters and her/his characters have to rescue them.

2.) Let the subconscious take its course! -  Don't be afraid to go off plan, because the new plan may be much better than what you intended, which also goes with writing your novel. 

3.) Force yourself to show! - If you've been studying the craft of writing for any length of time you've probably been advised to show not tell. My friends and I character chat with no interior monologue from characters to force ourselves to show our character's emotions. Interior monologue is good in books, but I think it's best to omit it in character chatting.

4.) Mix genres! - Let's say you write fantasy and your friend writes historical. Combine those characters and you could get an amazing adventure going on. :) How would a pioneer girl react to the supernatural powers of your wizard? How would your fantasy prince react to technology of modern day? Character chatting with characters of different genres can help you think out of the box for your writing.

5.) Visit each other's worlds! - You know that one setting in your book where you just can't get a clear picture? Try making your characters in the chats go there. This can stimulate you describe that area and help your brain kick into gear and finally clear the fog for that town, castle, or forest. Doing this also helps develop culture since in chatting you must describe it for your friend so they know what's going on. What terms do your people in the elf village use or your sci-fi freedom fighters?

6.) Save your chats! - You did all this awesome character chatting and now you don't want to let it go get lost in cyberspace. Keep them in a document so you can look back at them and remember that little idea that you thought up or that line of dialogue you want to steal for your novel. Yahoo! has a long chat history and you can copy and paste from the Conversation History. 
Tip: Holding down Ctrl then pressing C copies text after selecting and Ctrl then pressing V pastes it super fast.

My friends and I have thought of a particular method for our character chatting, but do what you feel comfortable with your friend or friends if you dare to try three-way. Try thinking of this like training for writing, but don't let it distract you from your regular writing too much. For me, character chatting has helped develop my settings and characters immensely. Bryce and Able would not be the same without it. ;) Trust the subconscious. It will surprise you. :)

Do you have any questions about character chatting? Have you ever tried it?

If you liked this post, come back every Saturday for more writing advice, character interviews, book reviews and more! On Sundays I have Soundtrack Sundays where I post a new score piece, Tuesdays are Tea Tuesdays with tea reviews, Wednesdays I have Wonderful Word Wednesdays where I post a new vocabulary word, and Fridays are Fan Fridays where I post tags and other goodies. To help support my dream to be an author follow this blog, like me on Facebook, watch me on deviantART, and follow me on Pinterest and Twitter. If you want to know more about my books check out them out here. Thank you! :)

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