Characters that Resonate Make Writing Easier

marvel-character-composit

      HAVE YOU NOTICED when your character(s) have identifiable characteristics and traits, that when they are truly definitive as individuals (like the cast of super heroes above) they become so much more easy to write? – and thereby so does the story.

I have a character in mind from my current WIP: a sheriff (no super heroes). From his role there are characteristics automatically attributed to him which helps. Cops stereotypically act a certain way, they follow a code of conduct etc. Either way you cut the mustard (who does that for a hobby?) the character is entirely clear in my mind. His actions are clear, his movements are clear. In essence he seems like someone I might have met, maybe he is, perhaps an amalgam of people both real and fictional. I’ll never have the money to scientifically study where he came from within my mind.

The point I am making is that knowing your character(s) makes the dialogue so much easier to write and similarly their actions become individualised too which makes the story better, further adding to their unique place in the story. No reader likes mixing characters up, struggling to distinguish between X, Y and Z or reading about deadwood characters. Naturally there is limited scope within a novel, so maximising the main characters is essential. Tight narratives with fewer characters naturally tend to have strong characters but when there are numerous persons even the bit part players should have something attributable to them.

I’m not a fan of plotting out swathes of a book idea, and ultimately a so-so character can be enhanced with the consequent drafts if there is a depth lacking initially. Characters that feel real simply make the writing process easier no matter how they came about, something I hadn’t experienced until my current project, a minor epiphany, and something else to add to the writer’s toolbox in the future. The one danger is that a bit part character starts to roll across the storyline like a blanket of fog when perhaps there’s no room for them and the original story, the main players, become superseded, in which case it’s time to hit the brakes and reevaluate the writing. I’m not the most experienced book writer but one project that reached 70k words (my first attempted novel) ended up going in a direction I never planned because I didn’t keep the characters on a leash. I’ve never had a story become problematic due to plot, only uncontrolled characters.

Have you had similar issues/ resolutions?

lion around 2

 

22 Comments

  1. I agree with you. For me, I have to know my characters to the point I won’t need to write down their traits, history, or habits. Usually it is the conflict between my main character and antagonist that inspire me to in the initial write. In subsequent drafts, I start formulating the personalities of the other characters.

  2. Oh yes, this happens to me all of the time.
    I like to write out a bunch of information on main/bit characters then try and take little nuggets from the list to enhance the story, but it usually ends with me cramming all of that personality and history into a very short space.
    I think it has a lot to do with my writer’s ego, trying to put literally everything on paper then letting the characters go wild (rather than giving the reader essential details). It just takes some getting used to knowing what is necessary and what isn’t. – sometimes it takes multiple drafts before you figure it out.

  3. Totally agree. I often find that when I get really stuck, it’s because I haven’t developed my characters enough. Understanding my characters and their motivations really helps to move the story along more naturally.

  4. I can’t write the story unless the character is clear in my head. When I’m a good roll, I can crank along 5k a day in a novel, but I can’t write more than one short a day or even three a week. I need time to live with the characters first.

    So, I’ve never had a problem with the characters taking over the story. The story develops around them. I plot, too, but in a plot vs. character situation, the character would win. 🙂

  5. Being fairly new to writing I found it a revelation that the characters are actually central to the whole process. Things seem to work a backwards to the way I thought. Stories are there to facilitate knowledge of your character, not the characters being there to drive the story.

  6. I heard recently that Brandon Sanderson had written a really badass villain for one of his books which he had to cut out completely. Apparently his entry was far too late into the book, so despite him being awesome he had to be ruthless and get rid of him. I think a strong, relatable character is desirable but writers must be careful about when and how often they appear. Great post, lots to think about here.

  7. I agree! This is probably why Fanfiction is as popular as it is. People fall in love with characters that resonate with them and they continue to write the stories of these characters long after the author has stopped. Characters that resonate with the audience live forever.

    1. Very true. But the character has to resonate with the writer first. A character like the Joker for example, it’s not difficult to see how they became integral to Batman, I imagine creating the Batman universe was exciting and great fun most of the time for Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

      1. Very true as well! You brought up the Joker, so I just had to throw in my fave: Harley Quinn. Talk about a complex character that resonates. I imagine creating her story (and in extension, tying it with Joker’s) was fun as well.

      2. She’s great too. The whole Batman universe is incredible, I loved playing the Batman Asylum game, got me right into all the main characters with backstories etc.

  8. I agree with all of this so much! I’m a fan of letting my characters run the show, more or less. But to do this they have to have solid, clear characteristics that ignite the story.

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