Friday, April 4, 2008

Developing Timeless Characters

Blythe said...

Why did you choose for the love interest in Chasing Twilight to be a Scientologist? Was this character taken from real life or did you write his as a Scientologist for a different reason?

This is a great question, Blythe, thanks for asking. How do we create our characters when we write? There are probably as many answers to this question as there are fiction authors. Part of my research for my first novel, Remember Me, was to work with a psychotherapist, who gave me wonderful suggestions as to how to base a character on my personal experience, and yet give it a separate personality that would be congruent with the outcome of the story. In Remember Me, the Mary Margaret character gives up on life. I had to create character traits and behaviors for her that would ultimately lead her in that direction.

For the second novel in my trilogy, Chasing Twilight, the love interest or anti-hero is a Scientologist so that the main character has someone who can understand her spiritual quest. The book is a dialogue between two people, and through the dialogue, the plot of the story and development of the characters are revealed. I chose Scientology because it has a new age, yet rigid doctrine and could provide some resonance, yet stark difference for the main character who believes only in the golden thread of truth that runs through all.

I did quite a bit of research into Scientology, reading and interviews, to build this character. I worked very hard to portray this character as an anti hero in the true sense, not as a villain. The constraints of his character are reflected in his passive aggressive attempts to control the relationship. The value of the faith of Scientology itself is never brought into question, but the main character does present some challenges and is answered, providing an interesting Q&A. I found it to be and extremely effective tool. Thanks again, Blythe. Molly Brogan

Artwork by Cindy Hesse Many thanks.


Adam Kramerer said...

My characters develop in a number of different ways. Some begin as a name, or a physical description. Some are created out of necessity--"I need a knowledgeable character to help explain things" or "things are getting too dark, I need a comedic character to lighten things up and keep my reader from wanting to commit suicide." Some just sort of spontaneously burst into existence; I've also had relatively unimportant characters become much more important to the plot than I planned them to.

Stella said...

My characters also develop out of researching a certain subject, what kind of family the character comes from or who they're friends with.

Tiffany said...

Honestly, I just let my characters do what they want and follow along behind them, writing it down.

Brigid said...

I have absolutely no idea how my characters develop. Sometimes they just pop out at me. Other times I get a sort of idea from another story and kinda work up a character around it to explain whatever weirdness came along with it.

Once in a while I'm putting together a setting and then a character walks on set looking for a job.

Other times I have a little cardboard cut-out placeholder that eats one too many ideas and I end up with a character.

It all depends.

Jennifer said...

My characters knock on the door to my unconscious until they drive me crazy, and then I let them out for a little fresh air. They keep me awake nights. They speak to me. I can't say that I really create them as much as they do their own thing. I will start a story intending to go one direction with the plot and the characters say, "NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! I want to kill off so and so, or I want to fall in love with so and so." Then, I give up and start listening to the voices in my head.

Ed said...

I generally begin by basing characters loosely on traits of real people I know and always on part of myself. When they are challenged by the nexus of the work, if they are successful, they will come to life and write themselves. From there, it is negotiation. Some of my characters have formed unions and have gone on strike when I refused them their way in the story. However, my best novels brandish the will of vibrant characters, despite my efforts to exercise my VETO. Children rule. But alas, I will pay them no royalty.

Desiree said...

The main character is sort of a just popping out of my heart. I know this character from the start, but I need to make sure that his or hers features show the way I want. Once everybody thought that my main character was rude and nasty because I presumed that everybody understood how nice she really was :-)

Supporting characters are a little more constructed to fit the situation, to gain the best conflicts and movement. Often these are based on a real person and then I twist the personality to be more extreme than a real person is in general.

Rupert said...

A character to me is just that: a character. Some pop into my head whole cloth, others are just a name. And then I kinda let the story tell itself and see where the character takes me. As they wander around my imagination I fill in the space with background and the other people. Writing boils down to telling the story as it unfolds and neating up the corners where the character's life gets messy.

I must have a thousand half scraps of an idea hidden about my house.

Malcom said...

My characters at times turn out to be a mirror of someone who already exists. I just take personalities and lifestyles of people I already know and embellish them a bit. Its easy for me to further build on their personal lives since they stemmed from individuals I already know.

I could take a friend, a cousin, my landlady, a colleague at work, a church member I already know and use the one that fits my story.
In other cases where the character is an extreme - like a criminal, I just research the life of known criminals and build one out of the research.

Somehow, as the story goes on, the charater self-develops - i keep discovering new possibilities of what he or she could become.