Monday, December 6, 2010

Know Your Characters

Do you ever catch yourself thinking about the implications of a seemingly insignificant decision?  Not just directly, but how each affect could spiral into millions of effects?  It can be mind boggling to consider.

I'll confess to something...I'm regularly told what a good listener I am, and I'm not at all.  My mind wanders.  I think about motivations, consequences.  My thoughts fly off into the worst possible direction.  Disaster.  Chaos.  What would everyone do, how would it feel?

Maybe it's just because I like to torture myself, I don't know.  But when I write, I pull from these thoughts.  These random snatches of conversation that fueled so much more than a "The weather sure is nice" response from my brain.

I also like to sit and think about my characters this way.  I know what happens next in the story, yes, but what would have happened if they had chosen another path?  Do they wish they had?  Do they ever wonder? 

Maybe this is all a bunch of garbled nonsense because I'm tired and have to be up in five hours for work.  (Yes, I'm writing this ahead of time. ;) Although I waited until the last moment to do so. lol)

Each of our lives have evolved to where they are through a complicated web of decisions.  Choices.  Seemingly insignificant points in our lives that can change our entire future.  My future changed with a phone call, a cancellation.  Along with a couple, again insignificant, choices and I wound up meeting the man that would become my husband...the man that would turn my whole world upside down and shake it like a snow globe.

Can you find the moments where your characters became who they are?  It may be something huge...a tragic event.  Or it may be something as simple as a phone call.  Something your story never even mentions.  But do you know what it is? 

If not, maybe you should find it.  Truly knowing your characters gives more than life to your story...it gives it soul.

8 comments:

Susan said...

Great post! And so true -- especially for our characters. Knowing that one event that changed them (for the better or for the worse) is critical to understanding the character's motivation and reactions.

I definitely figure out what that 1 event is before I start writing...

Pam Harris said...

Great post! I don't think I truly know my characters until after the first draft. Once I get the basic plots written, I then look back at my character development/motivation. I use worksheets to define the character and try to find his/her voice. Of course, I didn't realize this was my method until earlier this year, but now I kind of like it. :)

Claire Dawn said...

Beautifully said.

I'm always thinking about those things in my life that lead to where I am. Like, if I didn't drop Spanish at 13, I would never have ended up in japan.

lol.

And that's not the only thing.

LTM said...

you're so right! This is a very good post and important point. Thanks, Holly~ :o)

Abby Stevens said...

What a thoughtful post, Holly. I agree with Pam, I am still getting to know my characters throughout the first draft. I have to go back to the beginning and 'correct' their dialogue and physical movements and even motivations.

Jessica Lei said...

I love thinking about motivation when I write. There should always be a reason my MC does this or that, or says whatever it is they've said. People are like that--always a reason (or at least the sane ones)--and characters in a book should be the same way. If not, how can we expect anyone to connect with them beyond the paper?

Alicia Gregoire said...

This is a great post. I admit, a lot of times I don't think my characters through. After reading this, maybe I should do that more.

Elizabeth said...

I love this. So much to think about. I'm like you in that I'm good with motivations and consequences, but I don't pay much attention to those defining moments. Iiiiinteresting...