So over at Query Tracker our blog chain is steadily growing. I believe we have 12 or so participants right now. The way it works is that the first person chooses a topic, and then writes an entry that links to the next in the chain and so on. I find it really interesting to read different takes and opinions on various topics from writers from all walks of life and stages. So far we’ve covered things like where you get your ideas, genres and writing spaces I believe. But my lucky readers, this time you’re in for a treat…this time it’s MY turn to choose the topic and start the chain. And the oh so facinating topic I’ve chosen is…..
Are your characters real people to you? How much do you really know about them?
In a Psych 101 class I took a million years ago, we were shown a chart that showed the four catagories of how we see ourselves and interact with the world. See, there are things you tell only yourself, and there are things you tell others. There are things only others know about you and you personally will never know and there are things you won’t admit even to yourself. I think this applies nicely to writing and character developement. My characters are real people to me and so they aren’t open books. Sometimes they share things with me, sometimes I just know the secrets they’re keeping to themselves. But because I’m the author, I have the unique perspective of being able to see the other parts too…the reasons they do things that they won’t even admit to themselves… I get all the good gossip, the deep things hidden so well. Most times I don’t know them right away, and I never know all of them, but sometimes I get little glimpses that (I hope) I can pass on to the reader and strengthen the story.
As much as I’d love to tell you I’m one of those writers who knows every detail about their character’s lives from the brand of peanut butter they use to whether they brush their teeth after ever meal without fail…I am not. I don’t know Eden’s shower rituals…I don’t know Adam’s favorite TV show…I don’t know if Az listens to Depeche Mode. It’s because I haven’t asked them yet.
I almost view my characters as new friends that I’m eagerly getting to know. I didn’t really know how Eden felt about Az until I gave her a chance to tell me. It wasn’t something that I could just make up and slap down on paper. They aren’t my feelings to mess with. They don’t belong to me. Most times they don’t have the reaction to situations that I would have. Which is best, because it’s NOT my reaction I’m after…it’s that individual characters. When I meet someone new, every detail of their life is wrapped up in a neat little package of brain matter. That doesn’t mean I have access to every bit of it. I get to know them over weeks, months, years. It’s the same for me with characters. I’m given the details as I need them.
But that said, I come to know these characters I spend so much time with over the months. I love the little details that come out with the words. For instance, Eden takes her coffee with caramel in it. No creamer, no sugar. Coffee. Caramel. I do know that she likes it this way because it’s simple, when so much of everything else in her life is utter chaos. Has she made the connection? I’m not sure…she gave me the coffee detail, and I was the one who mined out the reasoning behind it.
Over the course of a story these people get to become my friends. I miss them when I’m busy at work and can’t hang out writing. I’ve found myself seriously bummed out when bad things happen to them. They become like real people to me. I’m just wondering how other people see their characters…is it like talking to a friend, is it a movie you watch but don’t have any say in? Just curious…
If you’re in the blog chain, I can’t wait to read the responses! If you’re not, feel free to leave an answer in the comments here…I’d love to see all the different takes. For then next link in the chain, check out H. L. Dyer’s blog. You’re up, Kiddoc!!!
For more information on the blog chain and past topics go to: http://querytracker.net/forum/index.php?topic=1542.0