Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Character Building

In my series on writing I seem to have been talking mostly about the marketing aspect of being a writer, something that I’m still a total amateur at, not the actual writing part of writing. So I’ll do a post on that.

In my first three novels I started out with a pretty good mental picture of my main characters and as the novels progressed those characters got more “real” as they reacted to the events around them. Sometimes a side character would start standing out as the story progressed and I would be developing them as the story went along, that is an exciting part of the writing process.

In the novel I’m working on now I ended up with the opposite happening. I had 20,000 words of different short stories all revolving around the same character. Sometimes he was the main character in others he was merely a side character. The stories where he was the main character were the most interesting (mostly) but he wasn’t very well defined. I figured he’ll get a character as he interacted with more of the strange characters in his town, 10,000 words later he hadn’t and I had to stop and try and figure out a character that I had already written a third of the book about.

I tried some of the character building techniques that writers talk about but they didn’t seem to work. Finally I got mad at him for not having a character and had his time-traveling future girlfriend yell at him about it.

When he had justify his lack of character I finally realized he did have a strong character, it was just totally opposite of mine, and most “heroes” in fiction. He strives for contentment, not happiness or ideals, he just wants to have non-complicated life. That makes for conflict as he and his time-traveling girlfriend are forced to deal with Devil Worshipers, a Succubus, Zombies, Demon possession, Vampires, and Aliens.

So to any writers who are struggling to understand their characters, my advice is to confront them and have them explain themselves. It will define them for both you and the reader.

Darrell B. Nelson

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