It's in the stars ...

Do you read horoscopes? When I was at school I remember someone had a well-thumbed copy of Russel Grant's 'Love Stars' - we spent hours poring through it, seeing how compatible we all were with the boys we fancied. These days I read the stars each week in the Times, but when I was thinking about this post, I had to laugh when I read Leo's prediction for 2009 this morning: 'Get real. Stay real. Then get ready for one of your best years ever.' Um, no. To put a positive spin on it, this year has been 'challenging' shall we say. In the UK Jonathan Cainer's predictions are entertaining and thought provoking, but do you think horoscopes can tell you anything about a person, let alone what the future holds?

If you take a look at Cainer's site you can see how your zodiac sign should define you. For me, Leo's have 'a head full of application and dedication plus a heart full of loyalty and generosity'. Or if you prefer Chinese astrology, you can check your sign here. Apparently I'm one of those honorable generous Pigs (no jokes please) who have 'hearts of gold and love their family'. So who are you, according to your horoscopes?

I read the other day about a writer who uses the Enneagram system to build her characters, and decided to buy one of the Institute's books to give it a try. The premise is that there are nine basic personality types. When I took the test I came out as a 3 (The Achiever: Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type:Adaptable, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious), which really surprised a friend who works with the Enneagram professionally advising corporations. (It could have been the 'image-conscious' part - I'd just walked the hound and was covered in mud ...) The interesting thing about the Enneagram is it allows for outward factors - so for example, under stress a 3 can act more like a 9 (The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type:Receptive, Reassuring Agreeable, and Complacent). If you're developing your characters at the moment, why not take a look at their site - it's certainly a good way to build emotionally complex individuals.

TODAY'S PROMPT: If you're currently battling with developing resonant characters (as I am), why not check out their horoscopes, or Enneagram personality - it may just give you what's missing? JK Rowling (another Leo), famously gave Harry Potter her own zodiac sign - if it worked for her who are we to argue? For those of you who prefer something more practical in terms of character development, have you thought about making a one-page questionnaire for each of your characters? I do this for every character, no matter how minor they are, and find it really helpful especially in the early days of writing a novel when you're still getting to know them. It's probably best if you come up with your own questions, but to get you started here are some of the questions I 'ask' my characters:
  • Name
  • Nickname
  • Age
  • Belief set in the beginning
  • Belief set at the end
  • Extraordinary skills
  • How are they related to the hero/ine
  • Character deficiency
  • Favourite thing
  • What do they like to do best
  • Dislikes
  • Physical attributes
  • Mode of speech
  • Hopes and dreams
  • What makes them laugh
  • What makes them cry

... and so on. Once you've come up with your own questionnaire you can save it as a template and use it again and again. So today, why not get to know your characters a little better and see what's in their stars?