Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Giving Characters Life

In my last two posts, we talked about how to create the world of the novel and the unique tension that drives the story. Now we are ready to develop characters. Authors breathe life into their characters before dropping them into their role in the novel. They do this because, once you drop the main and supporting characters into their new world, you lose some control. Come on now. You know it's true. Don't your characters take on a mind of their own once you release them?

So knowing this can be a problem, develop them beforehand. That way you know the life they've led and who they are. I do this with the protagonist, the antagonist, and one or two other supporting roles to a lesser extent. I ask myself: What was their childhood like, their family life, and their self-image in their teens? Who are they now: married, single, successful, a failure, wealthy or poor? How do they feel about who they are now? What do they believe about the world around them?

I'm not God! But . . . in the spirit realm of my mind, I am God to them at this point. I will not vary their back story once I drop them into their new world. However, once dropped, they will argue, disobey, and question me, just as I do with my God. Characters surprise their creators by going off in directions than planned. Many times, your characters are right to do so, and isn't that fun in an insane kind of way. If I've planned correctly, I know where I'm starting. I know where I'm going. I know how to get there. My characters become co-authors within the scenes they're in, adding nuances I hadn't planned.

Authors disagree about things like appearance, readers do as well. A multi-published author friend asked me if I knew what his main character looked like. I didn't, and I'd read several of his books staring that character. "I never describe him," he said. "I'd rather the reader develop his own idea of what he looks like." This worked for him. I'm less secure. I show my characters through the eyes of others and the internal monologues of the characters themselves. To this another friend of mine replies, "Whatever works."

Next time, I'll talk about character arc and motivation that stem from crises and tension. But now it's time for shameless marketing. Here is the link to the Room 1515 YouTube video.

Here are the links to purchase.

1 comment:

john biggs said...

I agree with everything you said about character development. I think three dimensional characters are even more important than a well developed plot line--at least at the beginning of the story. This is why a lot of successful novelists use the same characters over and over.