Tuesday, February 21, 2012

YATT: A character sketch... ultra-long post...

So, today for Young Adult and Teen Tuesday (a meme hosted by SA Larsen over at Writers' Ally) I am posting a bio sheet on my Main Character from my novel... I asked followers on my blog and the cool peeps over at Fairfield County Writers Group for input on 50 questions to ask her and promised to post them here.

I got 150 questions, actually. One of the cool peep writers over at FCWG posted a 100 question bio-sheet for developing your character. It's AMAZING. I'm only posting the first 15 questions from that sheet (the Basics) and then the 50 questions you guys contributed because... I feel like 150 is overkill. (am I right?) If you want a copy of the full bio-sheet for use with your own character, shoot me an e-mail and I'll gladly oblige. Also, I tried to link back to everyone who offered questions unless I didn't have a website for you. Let me know if I missed anyone.

I really enjoyed this exercise, because it made me THINK about what my character thinks. She came alive more to me than she has yet, and now I'm ready to take her back to the page and make the re-write happen for her.

I wrote her answers in first person, but the novel is not drafted in first person. It just felt more natural to do it this way. It's pretty long, so if you make it all the way through to comment, bravo you! And thank you.

I'm a little nervous about doing this to be honest. Reasons: 1. You might hate her. 2. You might not hate her, but tell me she's dumb anyhow. 3. You might hate her but tell me you love her. 4. Someone might love her so much that they steal her from me! Ugh. Honesty here... but... if I don't show her to anyone, how will I know if she's any good, right? So I'm attempting to be brave here and take a step. Please give me your honest opinions about her! And... I hope you like her... Um... and lastly, don't steal her, ok?


  1. My full name is ____. Lilith Evangeline Scott
  2. I was born in ____. I was born on Sanday, part of the Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK…
  3. My birthday is ____, making me ____ years old at the start of the story, and ____ at the end. My birthday is December 1, 1996, making me 15…
  4. My parents are ____, who is a ___, and ____, who is a ___. My ma’s name is Lenore. She handcrafts baskets from seaweed and driftwood to sell in town and to tourists. My da was a sailor. He drowned at sea before I was born.
  5. I have ____ siblings. Their names are ____ and they are ____ older/younger than me. I’m an only child.
  6. Right now I live ____. Right now I live in the ocean… in a cove a few miles up the coast from my ma’s house. It’s a long story…
  7. My occupation is ____. (n/a)
  8. I am ____ tall and have a ____ build. I have ___ skin, ____ eyes and ____ hair. My facial features are ______. I like to wear _____. I’m five feet tall when I’m in human form… I have a pixie build Molly says. My skin is mostly white… freckled a lot… or it was before I became a mermaid. Now it’s kind of a freaky bluish white. My eyes are green; my hair is dark auburn and long, past my shoulders. My facial features are delicate, adding to the pixie look, I think.
  9. When it comes to money, I have ____. (n/a)
  10. When it comes to allergies, diseases and other physical weaknesses, I have _____. I don’t have any allergies and I’m pretty healthy… 
  11. I am ___ handed. I’m right handed.
  12. My voice is _____. My voice is… I used to have a great singing voice. It’s a little scratchy since I live in the freezing cold ocean now. I wonder if Millicent stole my singing voice, too?
  13. A phrase I use frequently is ____. “you know”
  14. In my pockets right now, I have _____. Ha! I don’t have any pockets! Mermaid, remember???
  15. My most annoying habit is ____. I bite my nails???? How should I know? You’ll have to ask Molly. But she hardly ever gets annoyed with me. Maybe ask my ma.
Reader questions for Lilith:
  1. Regardless of what’s happening in your life right now, you do realize things will only get harder as you grow up, right? (Hildred) Really? Harder than accidentally switching places with a murderously evil mermaid who has a grudge against my mother (which, by the way, I still don’t quite get…) and being exiled by the rest of the child-stealing/child-eating clan because I won’t become a cannibal? The ocean is no place to survive alone when you only just got here. Plus… it’s effing freezing here! I’ll take a little misogyny any day… but thanks for the encouragement.
  2. Which subject do you hate in school? (Gina C) Ha! Well… when I went to school, I’d have to say it was math that I hated most. Too logical.
  3. What do you like to spend your money on most? Money? We never have anything extra after food and fuel and supplies for ma’s craft. We’re lucky to get what we have and no thanks to any of our neighbors, you know?
  4. Who do you want to dress like? Ah… I wear what I own… but I love Molly’s clothes. She’s my best friend and she always wears the softest clothes.
  5. What song do you listen to on repeat?  “Swim until you can’t see land” by Frightened Rabbit is all I can hear in my head right now… over and over… Ironic, you know? Most of the stuff I used to listen to back on land you probably would’ve never heard of anyhow. I’m from a tiny island off the northern coast of Scotland. Everything about my life is obscure.
  6. Who was the biggest bully in your life? It’s not the bullies I mind so much. They’re easy enough to avoid and not very bright either, you know? It’s their gossiping harpy mothers that really get to me. They make life hard on my ma… make her cry when she thinks I’m not looking. I hate them. Strange, but Molly’s ma is one of the worst. She hates it that Molly and I are friends. Too bad for her. She’ll never keep us apart.
  7. Who have you bullied? You’re kidding, right? I’ve never really spent any time with anyone except Molly… and ma. The other kids don’t like me or are too scared of what their mothers would do if they found out they’d been talking to me at all, even if it was to be mean to me. I’m not sure why that is… probably has something to do with the reasons they make ma cry… but when I ask her she always looks sad and won’t answer me.
  8. If you had a round-trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go? Somewhere warm. I don’t care where… although it’d be nice if it had an ocean… It’s just so damn cold here… I feel like I’ll never be warm again. I might never come back, either…
  9. What is your favorite movie? (Charles M) Everything I get to see is a million years old by the time it gets here… but there was this one movie when I was a kid… Howl’s Moving Castle… I dunno… I guess I liked how nothing was what it seemed to be… and you could open the door and find yourself in different places any time you wanted.
  10. What is your favorite book? I’d rather hear ma tell a story. She’s so amazingly good at it. The magical people she talks about almost seem real… come to think of it… maybe they ARE real. She always talked about mermaids, but I never would have believed they actually existed… except now I am one. What if selkies and Teran and the Sea Mither are really real, too?
  11. Who is your favorite boy? Boys are dumb and a waste of time. You can’t even make them into mermaids.
  12. Who is your favorite teacher? Miss McCormack… English Lit. I think she felt sorry for me. Whatever. I don’t need her sympathy, you know? But it sure beats the shit way the rest of the teachers treat me. More detentions than the biggest bullies in school… for what? I dunno… being alive? But Miss McCormack always let me do my own thing. I think I even paid attention in her class.
  13. What do you like to do in your spare time? Mostly I like to hang around at the shore. No really, even on land I did. I love tide pools more than anything and the crash of sea waves, the smell of salt on the wind… Molly and I can always find someplace where no one will bother us. Most times I just sit and listen to the waves while she collects shells. Since THIS happened… we still meet at the shore, and she brings me news about my ma and Millicent… and we work on our plan…
  14. What is your favorite animal? (CM)  Dolphins. Why? (Julie M) They’re brilliant, beautiful, and handy if I run into trouble with sharks. Happens a lot more than you’d think.
  15. What kind of car do you want next year? (CM) You’re joking, right? But we don’t need a car. Everything is so close. Car is just money wasted, ma says.
  16. Who do you think is cute? (Catherine K) Like I said… boys are a waste of space and energy… and Molly is beautiful.
  17. Who supports you? Molly. And Ma, even though she can’t see me now. She tried to once, but it must be part of the curse. So anyway, Moll takes her my messages and tells me how she is… and helps keep a watch out for Millicent. She’s ridiculously brave, that Molly.
  18. Who is your mortal enemy? Millicent. She’s evil incarnate. She stole my life from me and left me here for her lackeys to tear to pieces. But I’m going to ruin her little scheme with one of my own… and when she gets back here she’ll learn what pain really means.
  19. What did you do last weekend? (Gabi C) Last weekend I spent convincing a couple of fringe mermaids (that’s the clan outsiders) that they want to help me get rid of Agra, Millicent’s number own. She’s been causing havoc in the clan ever since Millicent “disappeared”. No one will believe that Millicent traded places with me, but whatever. She basically made a power grab when it looked like Millicent wasn’t coming back… nobody is happy about it. Even I know that and I’ve been banished. But Agra really wants me dead… so I have to figure out how to take her down a few notches… Yeah… not your average weekend in the life of a teenager.
  20. Where would you like to go on vacation? Like I said, somewhere warm with ma and Molly. And maybe we’d never come back…
  21. Who is your favorite relative? My only family is ma. Da is gone… ma never talks about him or anyone else…
  22. What scares you? Used to be the dark scared me. Now it’s the open, exposed ocean… I don’t wanna ever be caught with my guard down… Getting ripped apart by sharks or mermaids… not how I want to go. Also, never seeing ma or Molly again… that scares me.
  23. What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s funny. I always wanted to be a ship’s captain. But they don’t take girls on as deckhands or mates or anything… so I’ve been teaching myself to sail, sneaking off with Molly in her da’s skiff whenever he’s not looking…. Learning to read the water…
  24. Where’s your dad? (me) Ma says he’s dead. Lost to the sea. Molly’s heard all the rumors and she says that other people say he went off and drowned himself because ma broke his heart and had another lover… I never met him, so I wouldn’t know… but if he’s the type to go off and leave his family like that, I don’t know if I’m missing much.
  25. What’s your favorite food? Ma’s homemade bread is the best… warm, with butter… I hate eating everything raw and cold now…
  26. Do you believe in magic? I would have said no… all those tales ma told me… I thought they were just stories to scare us into behaving and going to bed on time… but now… the only explanation is magic. Nothing else makes sense.
  27. What’s your favorite color? The deep brilliant blue of the ocean.
  28. Who’s your best friend? You haven’t been paying attention. I said it was Molly. I’d die for her… and she’d die for me… but I’d never let that happen. She understands me better than anyone… she’s brilliant.
  29. Do you have any pets? Ma always leaves a bowl of milk out… for the fairies, she says…. But I know the village cats find their way out to our place and drink it up most days. They keep the mice away and let me scratch behind their ears sometimes.
  30. Have you ever travelled anywhere? We don’t have money for travelling. Furthest I’ve ever been is the next island over in Molly’s da’s boat. It’s uninhabited, so we beached the boat and spent the day exploring. Found a colony of puffins… they’re amazing. We left the eggs untouched. Molly got in so much trouble when we got back… we haven’t taken the boat out since. It started to get harder for her to sneak away and see me after that. Now, though… they think I’m dead and they’re a lot more free and lenient with her. It’s just harder for me… can’t be seen by other islanders. They wouldn’t like it.
  31. What’s your favorite time of year? I like summer. It’s light longer… lots longer way up here in the northern latitudes. And the air is warm then.
  32. Does your mom make you do chores? Yeah, but I’m happy to help, you know? We only have each other… and I have Molly… so I try to pay attention and do what she needs.
  33. Do you like your mom? I love her. She tells the most amazing stories… and she’s so strong… and so good….
  34. What do you think of love? You mean mushy romance? I don’t get it. The only person I ever loved besides ma is Molly. I don’t need anyone else.
  35. Do you like where you live? Ma’s house… my house… is well enough. We don’t need all the plush fanciness other people have. We have color and light and a warm fire… and we’re right by the shore… I love the shore. Only think I hate are the people in town. Not a decent person besides Molly. Bunch of homogenized clones, if you ask me. They all have to dress alike and listen to the same music and make the same jokes.
  36. What TV shows do you watch? (Dave D) We don’t have a TV. Big waste of time, in my book. We used to have one, but I made ma give it to the charity thrift shop. We never watched it anyhow.
  37. What magazines do you read? Ma gets a subscription to National Geographic. It’s the only luxury we afford ourselves. I like to look at the pictures and dream about what it would be like to go to those places.
  38. Have you ever written a novel? Nah. I make up stories in my head… but that’s it… they’re all just stories. I wish I could make them come alive the way ma’s stories have. Who’d have thought that homicidal mermaids existed? ‘Course they don’t HAVE to kill children… but I can’t talk about that here… it isn’t safe.
  39. What do you think is gross but secretly want to try? (Catherine K) Kissing.
  40. What do you say you want to be when you grow up? What do you really want to be? Ma always gets sad when I say I want to captain a ship. She doesn’t want me to leave her. I told her I’d take her with me, but she says no… She gets sea sick, she says. I think she’d want me to stay here… raise sheep for wool… you can make a good living selling yarn from our island. But I need to get away.
  41. What did you do for fun as a little kid? I’d go down to the tide pools and look for the biggest prettiest shell I could find. Usually it was in the most hard to get places. Ma didn’t like it when I went down without telling her. I guess I see why now…
  42. What’s your favorite thing about yourself? (me) I can sing. Pretty well, too. Only ones that ever heard me are ma and Molly. I make up songs… sometimes the seals come close to shore when I’m singing… like the selkies in ma’s stories… I wonder…
  43. What would you change if you could? I always wanted uncontrollably curly hair… you know… all wild and sticking out everywhere… mine is straight as a plank of wood. Still wild and tangled, though.
  44. What have you done that you are proud of? Well for starters I’m not dead yet. I could’ve been… but I’m a survivor.
  45. What was your biggest embarrassing moment? I don’t get embarrassed. No really…
  46. When things get overwhelming, where would you most like to hide? (Julie M) Under the covers in ma’s room… but I can’t. I’m stuck here. In the cold… alone… I have this safe cave, out beyond that point over there. I always try to be sprinting distance from that cave… in case of danger, like sharks and stuff, you know?
  47. What interests you about your hometown? I try to steer clear of town, you know? People aren’t very nice. But I often wonder how people came to be away out here on this island… what brought them here… Ma has a story about that too.
  48. What are the things that make you most excited to be alive? Mostly the ocean and all the things in it… and so many more than I ever imagined… and seeing Molly every day. It’s always something new with that girl.
  49. Do you advertise your affections or would you rather keep them secret? Moll and ma know how to read me. I doubt anyone else will ever figure me out. But if you asked me, I’d tell you what I think. I’m not scared.
  50. What’s your favorite thing to wear? (me) When I can wear clothes (like not now that I’m a mermaid) I always wear a great worn out pair of blue jeans and any of the sweaters ma’s made me.

If you made it this far you are my hero. No seriously. Thanks for sticking with it! Luv and puppies and stuff.


  1. Really well rounded picture of your character- I can see a number of interesting directions this could go.

    One thought- one of the things that mermaids are noted for is singing. Once your girl gets used to her new situation, her voice may come back and then some :D

    Catherine K

  2. Great post. I like the voice you've developed for your character, which really comes across as you write. I, too, noted that the mermaid had lost her voice at the beginning but was singing really well by the end of the list :)

  3. I'll be honest, I didn't take the time to read all of this, since I have somewhere to be in an hour and several other blogs to read.

    However, I think it's genius to get character building questions from your readers! Why didn't I ever think of that?

    I'm another person dropping in from the Fantasy group at the Campaign. Good luck with your character building, and I'll be coming back to this and reading it in depth!

  4. Wow this is one long list of questions. I don't know if I'd ever get my characters to answer the questions. :-)

  5. great exercise - i think you got to know her a lot through it :)

  6. Bah, how did I miss this before? Oh well. I guess I take back what I said after your campaign challenge piece about finally reading some of Lilith. Haha!

    Have you thought about making the novel first person? I only ask because your MC's voice is great in these questions. I'd love to experience a whole story in her head. Third person would be good, too, though (I'm always switching camps on which to do, myself).

  7. I like the voice. Can't wait to read the novel! And if you need to look for mermaids in the islands of Orkney, I'm game.


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