Hey everyone! Boy have I got a treat for you (kind of). This may throw some of you way, way back, too, if you had this kind of thing when you were a kid. I made them all the time, sometimes for my friends and sometimes for whatever crazy story I was working on at the time.
What is this dumb childish thing I speak of? Grab a binder and some paper, homeslice, because we’re about to make a SLAMBOOK!
How does this thing work? Why use it in place of other, more traditional character development methods? I can’t give you a good answer to either question because everyone will use this differently and I would never advocate only using one method of character development anyway.
When I made these Slambooks, I had a different question on every page. Name, birthday, favorite color, favorite class, favorite teacher, etc. Then I’d pass them around to my friends and they’d fill them out and pass them onto their friends. Each line is one person’s answer, so you could flip through the book knowing that on each page, on the sixth line would be Emily’s answers (since she was the sixth person to fill out the book). Or you could judge by gel pen color and handwriting.
The problem with these books at school is that they became tomes of instant drama with questions like “Best Friend”, “Least Favorite Person”, “Darkest Secret”, “Crush”, and so on and so forth, so they got confiscated pretty fast. But what could be better for your characters than a tome of instant drama?
I filled out my Slambook pretending to be my characters, occasionally having them notice each other’s answers and making little comments like it was a yearbook. It’s fun, but there are also a lot of really stupid questions that I included that don’t pertain to my setting at all. But you know what? It was an interesting way to get to know my characters in a way that I never would have considered, and I’m that much better off for knowing that Aleth is a basic bitch who loves his Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Take some of your favorite questions from a selection of character development worksheets and give them each their own page and give each character one line to answer. I’ve also outfitted them each with a different pen and unique handwriting, but that is optional. I’ve included the questions I put in my Slambook at the end of the article to give you some ideas.
ALTERNATIVE USAGE of your new SLAMBOOK!
Everyone creates characters differently. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. But maybe character development worksheets never really worked for you and neither will this dumb Slambook. Maybe you’re not great at getting in a character’s head and making stuff up about them. That’s okay! For some, hardcore in-depth research is easier and more comfortable than making crap up from nothing and there’s a whole genre suited just for that! It’s called HISTORICAL FICTION (and also non-fiction). Research is rad, but I suck at it.
Maybe you’re someone who feels more at home researching people and places that already exist and creating your stories from that. But at the same time, you’ve got an itch to do something different, to start a story with well-rounded characters of your own. What do? REVERSE SLAMBOOK! Kind of.
Create all of your questions. Name, birthday, favorites, family, secrets, whatever. Then randomly fill it out. Go on a random generator website (my favorite is Chaotic Shiny, located on the Sightseeing part of my sidebar), plug in those answers without rhyme or reason. Use inspiration from people you know or know of. Maybe a character is as tall as Emma Stone with Charlize Theron’s birthday, your mother’s favorite hobbies, and your boss’s breakfast habits. However you do it, just fill it out. Pay no mind to the person you’ve created until it’s DONE.
Now you have a character you can get to know. The Slambook has dug out their quirks and peeves and likes and dislikes and you can use those to “research” further. Remember, pointless details make a character feel real, they give readers a tiny little moment to connect with their own pointless details. You don’t need to include every single one of those details in your book (please don’t), but your characters should still have them, because it helps you write them like real people. The Reverse Slambook makes a character feel less like a blank slate when it’s done, and depending on how in-depth your questions and answers were, you’ll probably have enough to start writing some other character development material (letters to home from their POV for example).
Hopefully you can take some time to enjoy this dumb method of character development. Even though my book has a medieval fantasy setting, it’s fun imagining the characters in a more modern time, ordering Starbucks or deciding on a breakfast cereal.
Happy words, everyone! AJ OUT~
My Slambook Questions:
Don’t stop there! GO FOR THE GOLD