C is for Characters

Of all of the pieces necessary for creating an interesting story, I would have to say that character creation is one of my favorite. To be able to dive into the psychology (more on that April 18th) of a fictional being, and all the quirks that make them feel human is one of the most profound joys of writing for me.

I have a lot of characters in my ‘trunk’. More characters than I have stories, and that may or may not be a good thing. They have come to me in dreams, while talking to friends, while plotting, and while free-writing with N J––a technique of world and character building that I highly encourage, if you can find another person who “meshes” with your overall style.

An interesting divergence between my style of creating characters and a popular stereotype for authors is that I rarely, willfully base a character off of someone in my real life. I understand why it is done, but the one thing I hear rather frequently on writing boards is “Oh, that person made you angry? Don’t worry. Just write them into your next novel and kill them off.”

MjAxMy1hNjNlOTU2NzBiYjU3MjFh

I don’t really understand that mentality. If I don’t like someone, I’m not going to give them any more energy than I need to, and I certainly wouldn’t put them in the pages of one of my stories. Besides, my characters feel real to me. I have conversations with them… sometimes they comment for no reason on a story they’re not even in, etc. But it’s all a part of growing up their personality, and I really love that.

One of my characters in particular has become sort of the devil on my shoulder, of sorts. Migi (translated as “right”, as in right-handed, in Japanese) is a literal demon, and he’s sort of integral to reminding me that happy endings aren’t always assured, and that the best people always have the worst luck. He keeps my writing honest.

So, I guess, if I was going to agree with a few someecards, these fit the bill:

fictional-characters_someecards_peoplewhowrite

large_Writing_Meme

Thanks for stopping by!

Tomorrow: D is for Dragons!

60 thoughts on “C is for Characters

  1. I love the characters that feel so real I can imagine having dinner with them, or going on a crazy adventure. I wouldn’t want to give someone the time or energy (or notoriety) of being in a book if they made me angry, either.

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    • I’m glad you agree, and thanks for the comment. I feel much like you. I love going on the journey. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I love the first graphic. About two months ago, I realized I was getting so annoyed with my main character, I was trying to plot out ways for the antagonist to actually kill her. Once I realized what I was doing, I scrapped the book and started it over, this time being careful to reign in the character’s attitude. She was quickly becoming one of those people who are only fun to be around “in small doses.” :/

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    • Thanks so much for stopping by, S! Yes, he’s been very vocal about nearly everything I’ve ever written, haha. He especially likes commenting on people that I dare find cooler than him. πŸ˜›

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  3. This is very cool! I like your A-to-Z Challenge idea. Thanks for the fresh perspective on this important writing element–you taught us all something! Your posts are fun to read, and I look forward to following your progress throughout the challenge! πŸ™‚

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    • Wow, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve been having a lot of fun writing them (I have never posted or commented so much… almost 80 blog visits/comments a day! Thank goodness my S.O. is in the challenge with me, or she might be irritated with me by now, haha!)

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  4. I too have more characters than I have stories. I keep a file folder of random characters I have come up with over the years and hope to use to future projects. Sometimes I use real people that I have met, but don’t really know, as a jumping off point yet I agree that I don’t want to give the unpleasant people in my life more space in my head than they already have.

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    • Sounds like we have a lot in common. πŸ™‚ I have about, oh…. 500 or so characters waiting about in the trunk, all looking for a purpose, so I’m not worried about running out of characters any time soon. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

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    • Thanks so much for the comment, Brandon. Yes, I’m definitely more about creating the ensemble cast and seeing what happens when they’re put in close vicinity of each other, haha. It’s like a giant psychological experiment. πŸ˜‰

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  5. I’m definitely part character and part plot. I (more or less) create them together. And I agree that I don’t want to give any real-life people that much energy. If I’m annoyed enough that I want to kill you on my pages, then it becomes too real, and the writing is no longer entertaining. πŸ™‚
    Great post, Alex. I love characters.

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    • Yes, that’s definitely part of it, Jennifer. I like to keep my writing interesting an cathartic (it’s one of the reasons that, even though I’ve been encouraged to write a memoir, I hesitate… I don’t really want to dredge up all the bad with the good, and that would be necessary to complete the “whole” story.) Thanks for dropping by!

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  6. i sometimes base characters on people i know, but like in real life, even the antagonistic characters have something good in them. at least i believe they do, and that makes them a good character, even if they make bad choices, as good people do sometimes too. a sound character has deep layers.

    gotta see the dragons! i love fantasy =)

    happy c day!

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    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Tara! Yes, I don’t have anything against people basing characters off real people (Sherlock is based off of one of Poe’s characters, and Poe’s character [Dupin] is based off a real person, so it works)…. I just sorta draw the line for myself at revenge writing. πŸ˜› And you’re right. A sound character does have many deep layers.

      Happy C Day!

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  7. This is precisely the reason why I started writing my novel in the first place! When I read a book, I feel like I’m building a relationship with the characters, so much so that I’m so sad when the book or series has come to an end. It’s the same with the characters in my book. I love them. Every single one of them, even the asshole characters and I’ll definitely be sad once the story comes to a close =/

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    • I *especially* love the bad guys, haha. Partly because I don’t like making evil for evil’s sake villains, so they’ve all got reasons, and most think they’re in the right, or are so cynical and misunderstood they’ve just stopped caring, haha. Thanks for stopping by, S!

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  8. I never really got the write a person into the book just to kill them off mentality either. Besides the fact that they usually don’t fit into the story or the universe, why would you give them such an easy end like just killing them? If they really pissed you off, why not make them suffer and let them live with it?

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    • Lol, that would be the better way, yes, though I’m not much of a grudge holder. I tend to just cut them off, entirely. πŸ˜›

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    • For me, I usually have a scenario that needs a certain mood, and that’s how a new character is created… then I let them mill around for a few days and stalk them… eventually they divulge all of their secrets, haha.

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  9. “a technique of world and character building that I highly encourage, if you can find another person who β€œmeshes” with your overall style.”

    Once upon a time, back in 1995, my twin and I started talking about various stories that we’d sort-of written, or had been thinking about… and we realized that our ideas, and styles, meshed perfectly. We don’t have the same strengths (I’m good with visual description and character; he’s good with plotting and ‘choreographing’ actions, especially combat), but together we have created some excellent (to us, at least — we have yet to find out what most people think) characters and worlds. And it’s so much FUN to sit and talk and brainstorm, and several hours later (having lost all track of time) realize that we know enough about these fictional people and places to write several novels about them, and that we’re going to enjoy doing so…

    “the psychology (more on that April 18th) of a fictional being, and all the quirks that make them feel human”

    Some of ours aren’t — human, that is. πŸ™‚ I have a character in several of my stories who isn’t human but has deliberately developed a quirk for himself to make him APPEAR human to casual observation. Even non-human characters need to be fully developed people, though — possibly more so than “normal” characters for whom the reader can fill in the blanks with their own ideas. (One of the things I like so much about C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series is the in-depth look at the psychology of the non-human characters who are the majority in those novels.)

    I’m looking forward to your post on psychology of fictional people, and all the ones before and after it.

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    • Thanks so much, Thomas! And yes, before I had my GF, I used to write stories with my sister, exactly like you describe. It’s an awesome experience, and I bet what you guys have been able to write is awesome. πŸ™‚ Two heads are way better than one!

      And by “human”, I meant, I guess, relatable, haha. I have a lot of non-human characters too, but can still be related to on some level.

      Thanks so much for the comment! I’m looking forward to your posts, as well!

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  10. I like this. And I’m the same way. When I finished my novel, I felt like I had lost family members. I was shocked how much I missed those characters being a part of my every day life.
    Can’t wait for tomorrow’s post πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks so much, TD. I still mourn the death of one of my characters that “died” nearly three years ago now. Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. I love creating characters, too: I write these long, elaborate, super-psychological analyses of each one…and yes I probably get carried away, but then I really KNOW each person. And I agree with you – I have to love my characters, even the ‘bad’ ones, in some way, or else how could I understand them deeply enough to write them? So I also have no interest in putting a person I don’t like into a book!

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    • Thanks for the comment, Liz! It’s so wonderful to get into their heads, and maybe I actually enjoy my baddies more than my good guys. πŸ˜‰ Glad we agree on so many points!

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  12. As a writer whose stories are much more character-driven than plot-driven, I really enjoyed reading about how you develop your characters, Alex. And I love that last e-card. Because it’s so true. πŸ˜€

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    • That makes a lot of sense. It’s hard to capture the small tidbits of childhood again, once we’re not in that place anymore. πŸ™‚ thanks for commenting, Patricia!

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  13. My stories are hugely character-driven, so I agree with you totally – it’s the best part of coming up with a story! I don’t write them – my characters do. Excellent post for the letter C, Alex! πŸ™‚

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  14. I love the card about being able to talk about characters as if they were real and not being considered insane. So true!!

    I definitely feel at times like I have all these people living in my head and it’s great fun to just listen to what they have to say.
    And having more characters than stories can only be a good thing, so many stories are created from just having a character and putting her/him in a situation and seeing what happens….

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  15. Ahh, the beauty that is creating fictional character–the essence of a story. It’s crucial to develop them fully, otherwise they come off one dimensional and uninteresting. Giving them depth and a level of complexity makes them more real to the reader, compelling them to turn the page because they care about what happens to them. Isn’t it fun!

    WriterlySam
    A to Z #TeamDamyanti

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    • Super fun! I love making as many as I can without turning the whole thing into soup, haha. πŸ˜€

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  16. Great post! I can relate to your relationship with Magi. One character in particular from my Petal Pushers Series (the ghostly Miss Addie) constantly whispers to me about ideas for her storyline. πŸ™‚

    Love those cartoons, especially the last one, and I’m relieved to know that if I make you mad, I won’t end up getting whacked in one of your novels. πŸ™‚

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  17. Yes! Characters are such a fun part of story creation. Mine come to me at unexpected times. Sometimes I’ll look at my husband and say, “Uh oh. Paulie needs me to write something down,” and he just smiles and hands me a pen. πŸ™‚ Characters become such a part of my life that I feel sad when I reach the end of my story and have to leave them. Maybe I should start writing a series so they’re with me longer!

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