By Heather Justesen
I'm always trying to learn new and better ways to improve my writing and last fall I was reading How to Write a Damn Good Mystery: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript by James N. Frey (This is the second one of his writing books I've read and they were both well worth it). Frey suggested that a great way to get into the head of your characters is to write journal entries from their point of view. This has been a great break through for me personally, and helped me on the past two books I've worked on. What better way to learn who your character is than to channel them and write a few things about their thoughts and history. It's amazing what you can learn about them in just a few minutes of stream of consciousness writing.
I started doing this with the culinary mystery I wrote during NaNoWriMo in November. It helped me get into the heads of my main characters, the person who was murdered, and all of the suspects. It helped me with dialogue (how do they talk, what kind of phrasing would they use) as well as all of the other information.
Things you might want to cover as you write journal entries:
1) History--who are they, what kind of family did they have growing up, where did they grow up, siblings,
2) Defining moments in their lives
3) Likes and dislikes
4) Their relationship to other characters in the story
5) Their thoughts about what's happening around them
Just this week I wrote a journal entry for the bad guy in one of my stories. How he feels about the other characters, what motivates him, and how far he would go, to get retribution? And it really helped me get a better handle on him so I could figure out how he would write my big confrontation.