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“Mornin’, Character. How d’you like your coffee?”

February 7, 2010

“Mornin’, Character. How d’you like your coffee?”

(To this my MC would reply: “Add so many things and take away a bunch more so that the coffee tastes just like lemonade.” – She doesn’t like coffee.)

Any writer, any reader, for that matter, knows what it’s like to be walking through the grocery store, the kitchen, their bedroom, and realize mid-daydream that the person they happen to be daydreaming about isn’t in fact a person at all. You won’t find their address in the yellow pages and you definitely won’t find their favorite song on their nonexistent iPod Touch. Whoops. You’ve been fantasizing about people who don’t exist again.

Just the other day, I was sitting with my dad in his pick-up, and mentioned something along the lines of, “There’s something about [so and so] that annoys me.” To which my dad immediately replied, chuckling, “What, that they’re not fictional?”

Very, very good guess, Daddy.

It’s ridiculous, really, how completely real characters who are just names on a page can seem. But that’s just it, isn’t it? They aren’t just names on a piece of possibly-crappy-smelling paper. They’re just as real as Mr. John B. Manning across the street with the prosthetic leg that sticks out from the bottom of his army shorts – some characters more so than others, but it’s true all the same. Crazy, but true. We love our characters, we hate our characters, and we have to meet more and more of them to survive. You might be an introvert, but the characters in books don’t care. They can’t tell.

Readers: Can you even fathom how a single person – an author, could manage to deceive you so thoroughly? Could succeed at digging under your skin with this character so well that you want them to be real, living people you could run into at Target? How is it that these crazy writers can create seemingly living people, deep, sensitive, conflicted, emotional people? Just like you and me?

Heck, we writers can’t even figure it out. We just try to make our characters realistic.

So, writers: How do you try?

Readers (again): How do you think you’d do it?

What do we think it takes to make someone?

I’m interested to see what people’s takes on this topic are. It’s a universal question, asked by tons and tons of people, but every single person has their own idea because there really isn’t one answer.

I’ve proven to myself over the past few months that I am, despite my past attestations of the negative, a thorough plotter. I plot everything, every single moment. I’m flexible, things can change, but I have an outline. I know what has to be gotten across in the scene, whether I follow the plan strictly or not. And above all, I plot characters. I create them by thinking them over, tossing them left and right in my mind, trying to see into them, to what lies beneath, and then I try to fill in the nooks and crannies. I type character analyses that talk about everything from when they were born to their embarrassing habit of collecting random bumper stickers, no matter what they said.

I haven’t always done people-making this way. I’ve written shorter little baby stories with characters that existed purely in my head. I didn’t scribble down any details about them that weren’t directly in the story, and they lived. Somehow, by some inexplicable magic, I still managed to breathe life into them, They lived on the page, and I loved all of them, even the jerky ones. They were mine.

And I’ve got plenty of bosom friends that were various authors’, and because those authors sent their stories out into the wide world to spread their wings, those characters became ours, too.

So, besides telling me how you think people should go about character-creating, tell me who your bosom friends are – whether they’re your main characters or someone else’s.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dominique permalink
    February 7, 2010 7:12 PM

    were you thinkin about Jace?

    • February 8, 2010 3:25 PM

      Haha no, Dominique. ( ; I was thinking about characters in general. If JuJu read this, she’d be thinking about Jace. (Who can blame her?)

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