IT’S ALIVE!!! AAAALLIIIIVVVEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Query Tracker Blog Chain Post)

Posted: August 25, 2008 in Uncategorized
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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…..

How real do your characters become?

Are your characters real people to you?   How much do you really know about them?  

My entry:

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

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Comments
  1. hldyer says:

    Awesome post, Leah!
    I’m so glad you have internet again…
    What a great topic! I’m excited to post about this, but y’all will have to wait until tomorrow for that. (I’m at work today).

  2. katekquinn says:

    Yea!!!
    I am so glad you’re back with us on the chain! I love the psych 101 4 categories stuff – and, um, just so you know I am officially stealing that for all my future characterization needs.

  3. Hmmm…I think of my characters as very real people, but you bring up an interesting point–I think of them as real, but they’re really nothing like the actual real people I know. I tend to know things about my characters much more up front, and yeah, they do develop as I write them, but I tend to from the start know most of thier personalities and ect.
    Which is really rambly and nonsensical, but whatever. Interesting post.

  4. elanajohnson says:

    Wow, Deep
    Wow, GG, you never cease to amaze me. I’ve never felt so shallow in my life. Psych 101? 🙂 I love the four categories. I’m with you, when I’m at work, I miss my characters. I find myself thinking about them as I go to sleep at night, when I wake up, when I’m driving, etc. This is a great topic, I can’t wait to see what everyone has to say!

  5. Great post, Leah! I especially liked the part about why Eden likes her coffee as she does. That her life is chaotic and she likes things simple. And I like how your characters share things like that with you.
    For everybody who is intrigued by the four categories thing, it’s called Johari Window; Wikipedia has a good entry on it. 🙂

  6. miss_java says:

    Coffee?
    Did someone say Coffee??
    Thanks for including coffee in your post so creatively. (grin)
    Looking forward to hearing what everyone says on this great topic.
    Great start to the chain.

  7. brimfire says:

    I totally get what you mean be seeing your characters as friends you’re trying to get to know. That’s how I feel about mine, too.
    Hmm. I never had an imaginary friend growing up. I wonder if my characters could count as that? I do tend to talk to them when I’m alone…

  8. elknutswife says:

    Okay, I could have sworn I left a comment…hmmmm…well anyhow, great post 🙂 I am the same way. I miss my characters when I am away from them too long. I even had a really hard time moving on to my new book because I didn’t want to leave my characters from my first book behind. It’s funny how attached we get 🙂 I don’t know everything about them…although give me a situation and I can tell you how they’d respond. I’ve had some people ask while reading my book “why does so and so do this here.” Many times the only answer I have is “because that is just the way she is.” 🙂

  9. sarahjen72 says:

    Well, I won’t go into detail here, you’ll have to wait until it’s my turn to blog, but I totally hear you Leah, and my characters!

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