Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where Has Your Character Been?

Some writers seem to think that a character is whatever group of traits they feel like throwing together at a whim’s notice. Or they don’t bother to think beyond what they want that character to do in the course of the story.

Have you ever heard a writer say that a character ‘refused’ to do what they wanted him or her to do, or that their characters took over the story? I’m always eager to read that author after I’ve heard that. They have thought out a history and personality for their characters, so their characters are not simply puppets. That always makes the stories more interesting.

One of my characters is an only daughter, born after her parents had eight sons. You might think she would be a tomboy, and indeed, she started out that way. But once she approached her teens, her father – who had never given up his womanizing ways – realized that other men would see HIS daughter the same way he saw women, the same way all his sons saw women. And that was not what he wanted for HIS daughter, so she was chaperoned every place she went. What does this tell me about this girl?

1. With eight older brothers, she had to learn how to hold her own, so she was quite adept at rough and tumbling, when the need arose.
2. After so much freedom as a child, never being left alone as a teen had her chaffing something fierce. She was desperate to get out from under her father’s thumb.
3. Since she wasn’t stupid, she knew why she was chaperoned everywhere, and also didn’t trust any man she met.

So, with one quirk in a character’s father, I’ve produced three traits of my character. There were other people, other events in her history that also influenced her as she was taking shape. She is a complicated person, just as real people are. That’s the kind of care you should be taking in creating your characters. Make them ‘real’. And then they will tend to tell you how the story goes.

See ya next week. Trudy

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