A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Growing Characters

Robyn Campbell over at Putting Pen To Paper got me thinking about my characters. When I begin writing, I usually have at least one character in mind. But it's very much like puppy love between teenagers. You love someone, but you really don't know what it is about them that you love, nor do you really know them very well anyway.

As my stories progress, the characters reveal themselves to me slowly but surely. Yes, I am fully admiting that I am not in charge of their progression. They are. The little mannerisms they do or the turns of phrase they use sneak onto the page whenever they decide to let it slip.

In one of my projects for example, Kris is a 25 year old who feels a great deal of disdain for his fellow man. Until recently, he thought he was the only one on the planet who had truly great power, and the rest of humanity might as well be ants crawling on the sidewalk. I have found out however, that he's not as tough on the inside as the image he portrays to everyone else. There are things he's afraid of, and the possibility that someone greater than he exists does give him a long moment of pause. He has the capacity for love, an emotion he thought long dead in his heart. He might even believe in heroism a bit, though to date he is still fighting against that ideal. Since he figures he will outlive everyone else around him, he appears to be less than concerned for their welfare. Events are conspiring to change his mindset however, so there may yet be more to him than even I can imagine.

It's very interesting watching my characters grow before me, show me the various facets of their personalities. It also makes me realize I'm much better at characterization than I am at the details of their surroundings. I focus on them so much that I usually have to go back and add in what's around them later. I get to see my characters in much the same manner the reader does, so possibly that's a good thing. As long as I become well-acquainted with them by the end of the story, my reader should too. As I craft this post, Kris is already whispering new things to me, revealing little tidbits that he thinks I should include in the story. I still can't fathom how he chooses which details to share, but at least he's still talking to me.

How do you craft your characters? Do they speak to you in the corners of your mind or do you order them about like tin soldiers?

14 comments:

Sara Tribble said...

Well I like to open up with something so the reader gets an idea, but as the book changes I want the characters to show how the plot affects them as well. Same with the influences around them.

Like you said they unravel who they are--not us! Sometimes I wish I could snap at them and say do what you feel not what you're expected to! LOL! Ah the beauty of stories! Great post!

Brian said...

I base many of my characters on the things I can connect with. It usually starts with an idea of who that person is and builds around that. Most of the time though the emotion and thinking of that character will change as the story goes along.

beth said...

I base my characters on my plot: I come up with plot first, a conflict, and try to think about what kind of person would react in what way to that conflict.

Lady Glamis said...

My relationship with my characters is interesting. It's more like we sit down and talk through things. Even the villains are usually willing to just work through things. So nice!

Cassandra Jade said...

I start with strong ideas about characters and the story flows from them, but as I get further along in the story I see the characters start to evolve and take on different mannerisms to what might have been intended. A lot of my editing is making sure I've ended up with a consistent character, or at least one who logical changes rather than a character that seems to suffer from split personality.

Robyn said...

I never tell my characters how to think and/or act. They tell me. More fun that way. Nice post Eric. :)

Valerie Wangnet said...

I sort of agree with the above comment. Once I've established who my characters are, they take off on their own!

Great points, Eric.

Regards,
Val

Justus M. Bowman said...

I agree: they grow up so fast!

B.J. Anderson said...

Lol, why I'd love to take credit for Robyn's awesome work, I just can't let myself do it. :) It was Robyn's article, Eric. ;)

ElanaJ said...

Oh, my charcters own me. I try to boss them around, but for the most part, they own me. That's why I do horrible things to them. :)

Icy Roses said...

Gee, I wish I was in control of my characters. I try, and they listen sometimes. But a lot of times, they drag me around far from where THE PLAN says they should be. And they smart-mouth off to me.

You know, if a non-writer chanced upon this conversation, he/she would order the men in white coats after us. We are all clinically insane.

B.J. Anderson said...

Oh, and Putting Pen to Paper is Robyn's blog as well, Eric. You mistakenly said it was mine. :)

Eric said...

Thank you B.J. for correcting me. When I looked at her page, I think I saw your name there and accidently typed it instead. I have since corrected this post to reflect Robyn's name instead, along with apologies in a comment on her page. I humbly submit to 30 lashes with a wet noodle as punishment.

B.J. Anderson said...

Lol! :) Yeah, I figured that's what happened. And no need for lashes.