One nice thing about writing is having friends who write as well, friends who get the way your imagination works. I have the added privilege of having kids who write, and over the years they've taught me much. Recently, one son showed me a new way of outlining, which he is finding useful for his own story. That exercise got me thinking about how to adapt it to my style and apply it to my work. Normally, I start a novel with a paragraph by paragraph summary of the whole, which incorporates points of view from every character. I get a glimpse of each character's purpose and motives that way, but not in great detail. I normally get to know the characters better as I write. But this time I decided that those paragraph summaries can be useful if they are also expanded - to rewrite the summary from one point of view at a time.
So taking one section of the story (since I usually break them into three or four parts) at a time, I am working to understand that section from the points of view of each prominent character.
In Rebekah's story, I got to know Laban and Jacob, but Rachel and Leah are still a bit of a mystery to me. Rather than try to figure out what I didn't know first, I decided to begin with what I did. So I started with Laban, who could be labeled the villain. By exploring his motives and actions, I can see how he relates to the other people in the story. That helps me to understand why the other characters acted as they did.
After walking through part one with his thoughts and motives in mind, I started over again from Rachel's point of view, covering the same ground, but from a completely different perspective. I'm planning to do the same with Jacob and Leah and perhaps some side characters. Once I have these summaries outlined from each angle, I will have a better idea of the overall story and which characters deserve the most stage time in each given section and scene.
Every writer tackles how to plot and characterize in different ways, but it can help to come at things from a different approach now and then. If you write, what techniques work best for you? Please feel free to comment on my Facebook page or in an email.