Everyone always says, “write what you know.” But how many of us are actually heroic men and women, ready to charge into danger to save others? How many of us are dashing swashbucklers, as quick with a quip as with a rapier? How many are hyper-observant detectives, able to notice the most minute details and instantly analyze everyone we meet?
In short, how are we supposed to write what we know and still write engaging, interesting characters?
Then there’s the other side the coin. If every character we write is shy, reclusive, uncomfortable around new situations or strangers, allergic to shellfish, irrationally afraid of green cars and striped umbrellas, and whatever odd little quirks we ourselves have, that’s going to get awfully repetitious—and awfully boring—after the second or third character. But if we’re supposed to write what we know, how can we convincingly write any character who isn’t exactly […]
Continue reading Aaron Rosenberg: Writing Characters Who Aren’t Like You . . . Completely
Once upon a time, I had an idea for a story. It was tentative, as ideas sometimes are. All I had was an image of a young woman reciting prime numbers as her brother listened. The seed for that image was easy to identify—Oliver Sacks’s essay “The Twins,” which describes twin brothers, autistic savants, who recited prime numbers to each other. I chose to make my twins a brother and sister name Síomón and Gwen Madóc, both mathematical geniuses.
That initial scene came to me complete with setting and emotions and full-color video, but I wasn’t sure how the story would unfold. So I wrote as much as I knew, following the brother from the visitation room of the sanitarium (because Gwen is mad, suddenly and mysteriously mad from too many numbers), down to the lobby where a police detective introduces himself and…
…and all of a sudden, I had […]
Continue reading Beth Bernobich: The Time Roads
I wish I had some really interesting, profound statement to make about the process of creating characters in fiction. I’ve read lots of well-written and well-considered pieces about finding out who your characters are and their motivations and how all those things can make your story better and more interesting.
I’d genuinely like to write one of those pieces for you. I’d like to tell you that I did this writing exercise or that I carefully craft each character and have background histories for all them even if all of that information doesn’t make it into the story.
Unfortunately, my writing process might kindly be termed “intuitive” and less kindly be called “half-assed”.
Take Madeline Black. The heroine of my BLACK WINGS series just appeared in my head one day. Well, I probably shouldn’t say “appeared”. That implies that I saw her, and I didn’t see her. I heard her. […]
Continue reading Christina Henry — Talking to Characters
My Characters and Me
On more occasions than I can count, my characters have this uncanny ability to make me want things or feel a certain way. This is a quick survey to see which characters influence me most in my day-to-day goings on.
Who makes you stay up at night?
*Ahem.* Yes, that would be Reyes Farrow, for obvious reasons I shan’t go into here.
Who makes you want to make a fresh pot of coffee?
Oh, man, every time I start writing Charley now, the first thing I think is COFFEE! If I don’t have a cup of coffee right there next to me, I feel naked. Well, sometimes I am, but not usually.
Who makes you want to watch TV?
Aunt Lil, actually. I love her and I’d love to hang and watch the tube with her. She has some great one-liners.
Who makes you […]
Continue reading Darynda Jones — My I Hear Fictional People
Character is possibly the trickiest thing for a writer to make work. It’s one of the most insubstantial and abstract elements in writing, but it’s also one of the most vital: when people love a character, they’ll return to their books again and again, sometimes solely for the “hang-out” appeal.
More so, as writer David Liss puts it, “Character is story,” meaning the best stories have conflicts and plot developments whose origins lie in the characters. So not only is characterization vital in its own right, when properly done, it act as a catalyst for nearly all other parts of the story.
So how to make characters work? How to make them feel “real”?
The thing to remember is that characters have their own agency, their own individualized wants, needs, and assumptions about the world. A writer must imagine that what they would be doing if the story never got […]
Continue reading Robert Jackson Bennett: Character
When I began work on my first novel – The Six-Gun Tarot – I made a decision to make as many of the characters in my tiny little town of Golgotha, Nevada, as unique as possible. I wanted everybody in the town to have some dark secret, some special gift, or some unique history. I have received some very positive feedback on my characters in Six-Gun, but I don’t think it was just giving the shop-keep a wife who was a head in a jar, or making my female protagonist a member of a secret Lilith cult, and a living weapon to boot— I think the reason my characters breathed for people was because I tried to make them, well…people.
At this year’s RavenCon, I was fortunate enough to be a guest and to have the honor of being on a panel with some very cool folks discussing the concept […]
Continue reading R. S. Belcher: Building Character
Nicola Pallas is not one of the main characters in the Libriomancer series, but to me, she’s one of the most important.
In the world of the books, Nicola lives outside of Chicago, where she serves as the Regional Master for the Porters, a magical organization founded by Johannes Gutenberg. She manipulates magic through song, and is powerful enough to knock you on your ass just by calling you on your cellphone and singing a little tune. She raises chupacabras, which she’s been trying—with some success—to cross-breed with poodles.
She’s also autistic.
I began writing this series shortly after one of my children was diagnosed as autistic. This is one of the reasons I decided to write Nicola the way I did, and one of the reasons I was so invested in getting her right.
What does that mean? For starters, it means I wanted her to be a real, […]
Continue reading Jim C. Hines: Inventing Nicola Pallas