Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Characters Can and Should Talk To You

Sorry for the delay in the post this AM. Things were a bit hectic.

I was joking yesterday with some other authors about a comment I frequently hear from authors. These are mostly those "pantsters" out there. Often, they make statements that "their characters are telling them what to do." I always laugh at this. First of all, as someone who believes in plotting and the author being in charge, I don't personally believe that you just let the story do what it wants to do. Secondly, I always joke that I am worried about these people if they think "fictional" characters are "REAL." I did work with one author who told me a secondary character kept "screaming at her" and "demanding her own story." Hmmmm?

But, today, I wanted to look at this is a positive light and think about writing and true characterization.

If you, as an author create believable characters, they will indeed tell you what they should do and how they should act. No, this is not some alternate voice in your head. This is simply looking at your characters in a real light. In other words, what would a normal person, in the real world, given the background and everything similar to your character, do in a situaton like this.

Let me give you two characters from some authors that I have right now. By the way, any editors out there reading this post, I am currently looking for a home for these two books (smile).

Ryshia Kennie has a fantastic women's fiction piece about a daughter who finds out her mother has Alzheimers. OK, on the surface this might seem like other stories we have seen out there, but in this case, the daughter gives up everything to help out the mother to the end. But, here is where the characterization comes in. Based on all we know about people facing death and dying (see Kubler-Ross for this one), this daughter is going to do some pretty irrational things because of that issue of denial. For Ryshia to create the storyline, she had to really think of the story not as a piece of fiction, but as someone truthfully in that situation.

A second author, Jean Love-Cush has a wonderful multicultural women's fiction piece about a woman living int he projects of Philadelphia when she finds herself facing the situation that her son has now been accused of 1st degree murder. Jean now has to think like a mother. Will there be denial? Will she see the system working against her and there is nothing she can do? Sure.

The point of this is simple. First, you have to know who your character really is. No, this is not the simple physical features, but the internal thoughts and feelings as well. Secondly, every situation you place the character in has to demonstrate a commitment by the character to stick to the "real" things the character would do. As an author, you cannot simply have the characters do things just because you want them to. You have to give them the opportunity to "be who they really are."

1 comment:

  1. My characters don't dictate the story--I have a hard enough time plotting without additional voices telling me what to do. But they do sometimes walk on and demand bigger roles. I like when this happens--it feels to me that this is the point when the story is coming together into something bigger than itself.