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Getting into characters: What breaks their hearts?

by Heather Harris Brady

Like a lot of you I suspect, I have pages and pages of notes related to characters, especially getting to know a main character. It’s all good information, and a good exercise but it was starting to get overwhelming. Then I saw a post today on Terri Eicholz’ great Engage Their Minds blog about making heartbreak maps. And that’s it really, isn’t it? When you get right down to brass tacks, whatever breaks your character’s heart is what is going to drive everything.

The process is simple:

  • Step one: just draw a heart shape and write all your character’s passions in it.
  • Step two: draw a line out from each passion to a bubble.
  • Step three: in each bubble write what would break your character’s heart about that particular passion.

Maybe it’s because I’m a visual learner, but I think this exercise is really going to help me crystallize the driving emotional factors behind my characters. I’m doing maps for each character and then I’m going to hang them up so I can refer back to them easily. When I get a good sample finished I’ll post it.