A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blog Chain - Spontaneous Bouts Of Characterization

That's right Muse fans, you get a double whammy of posts today.  I couldn't skip Ten Word Tuesday, and it's my turn on the blog chain.  Today's question is brought to us by the ever-skilled Abby, who asks:

Where do your characters come from? And once they've been introduced to you, how do you get to know them?

This is an awesome question and a topic I like to discuss alot - characters.  I really enjoy noteworthy characters, and learning to create memorable characters is something I think about all the time.  But how do I come up with my characters in the first place?

I've tried following patterns of other writers, like those who watch the people around them and seeing potential characters from random strangers.  It just doesn't work for me.  I do wonder sometimes about people I see, like what they are doing and where they are going.  But when it comes to crafting a story around somebody like that, the muse clams up and refuses to budge.  I've also tried creating character sketches, or writing a description of my character; I get nothing compelling from that exercise.

No, in the end, I just create the characters as I go.  Sometimes I only have a hint of the person, a whisper of who they will become.  And as I write, they speak to me, drawing my fingers across the keyboard and across their lives.  Their various peculiarities unveil as we both walk through their respective stories, sometimes resulting in events that surprise us both.

As far as getting to know them better, I don't have any real techniques here either.  I've tried interviewing my characters, and sometimes I have some good success.  But on the whole, I've found my creative process works best when spontaneous bouts of characterization occur.  It is there that I feel closest to my characters, and it is there that I get to know them best.

If you haven't had a chance to read my predecessor the insightful Sandra's response, head on over.  Tomorrow, we can all expect to receive an equally interesting answer from the awesome Michelle Hickman.


Michelle H. said...

I feel the same way. Let the characters appear when they want and shape them as you write along.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I think character interviews, while they can be useful, tend to pull characters out of their native habitats (the stories where they live). I personally prefer to get to know them through the story. Good post.

Eric said...

Michelle - Yep, it works for me.

Sandra - I agree with you for the most part. Most of my explorations in that are have been halfway (if that) successful.

nomadshan said...

I've found my creative process works best when spontaneous bouts of characterization occur.

I love those. They create revision notes to go back and incorporate the new character traits, but the A-HA moment is worth it.

Michelle McLean said...

lol this question made me think...I'm still not sure exactly how to answer it...it's sort of a different process for each character :D I also love the line Shannon highlighted - very well said :D

Kat Harris said...

I've never been able to do a character interview. I think it's because interviews are such a big part of my day job and I don't want to mix the two.

Eric said...

Nomadshan - YES! That's exactly what I was trying to say with that statement.

Michelle M. - Thank you, that was one of those spontaneous bouts :)

Kat - That's understandable. I liked your answer though. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way. I have an idea about a story and an idea about "who" the protag and antag are, but they don't fully develop until I'm well into the draft. Thank goodness it all gets flushed out in the rewrites. (Well, I'm still working on that, but, hey, it's getting better.)

Great answer! :D

Margie Gelbwasser said...

"But on the whole, I've found my creative process works best when spontaneous bouts of characterization occur. It is there that I feel closest to my characters, and it is there that I get to know them best."

That's exactly how I feel!! Great post! I love your phrase "drawing my fingers across the keyboard and across their lives." Very nice!

Shaun Hutchinson said...

When I was in college I used to sit in the cafeteria and just listen to people speaking. Thinking about it now seems kind of creepy, but I loved listening to the patters of peoples' speech, the different ways in which they butchered the English language. I think your method is brilliant. I have no doubt you're creating amazing characters.

Cole Gibsen said...

This is so interesting to see your process. I'm the total opposite. I have to write out long lists of my characters' traits. It helps me with my memory, especially. The gerbils in my mind don't run as fast as they once did. lol

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I'm like you, I get to know my characters mostly while writing and I LOVE when they do something or make something happen that surprises me!