Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Why Characters Should Not Be Created

Captain Russell Lawrence of Grace Triumphant
I was recently asked how I create my characters. Well, I don't. They create themselves.

Really.

I am always just as surprised as you by the time the words The End roll around. I don't fully understand my characters until the book is finished. And that's because good characters aren't created.

They're born.


Even now, as I am deep in work with Grace Triumphant: A Tale of the Slave Trade, I am constantly being surprised by the brand-new characters emerging. Russell, with his atheistic tendencies. Elizabeth, with her strong feelings and inability to stand up to her headstrong fiancee. Jack, with his scarred past.

It's one thing to plot out a character's hair and eye color, height, and roles. It's quite another to detail his or her entire disposition before you're finished with chapter one. Don't detail their lives away. Be surprised. Let the character live and breathe and be who they were meant to be without hovering over them like a helicopter parent.

Let them be born.
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Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!




10 comments:

  1. Good post, Alicia! I'm looking forward to reading 'Grace Triumphant'! :)

    -Micaiah-

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    1. Thank you! I can't wait for you to read it! :)

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  2. I completely agree. Characters are born, not made, just like stories - you can't force them to come because that's simply not what they are.

    I have sometimes tried to 'create' a character and it never (really) works. They're too stiff, or they are too similar to one I've done before, or they just don't 'fit'. The real characters - the ones that stay with your readers and make them feel something - are the ones who are born out of seemingly nothing. They suddenly appear on the page, and you're left thinking "Whaaat? Where did YOU come from?"

    At least, that's my POV when I talk about characters . . . ;)

    -Beth

    Ooops . . . . that is a long comment . . . . .

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    1. Right on! If your characters aren't surprising YOU, they won't surprise anyone else either. That = bad. ;) Thanks for commenting! :)

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  3. So true! I used to get really stressed out in the past about filling out those long question things about how your characters were like. Recently, I realized that it worked so much better when I just wrote and the characters sorta fell into place :)

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    1. Hah! Yeah, by the time you finish filling one of those out, who has any energy to write the book anymore?! :)

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  4. I love starting out with a small concept of what my characters are like and then letting them surprise me! Sometimes that little known messenger who is just a name ends up being the hero. :) Thanks for the great post!

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    1. That's always a good plan! :) I am so glad you enjoyed it.

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  5. Finally someone else who doesn't plan everything about their characters before they write their story! I used to wonder if I was the only one who learned about my characters as I wrote. Glad to know there are others who enjoy standing on the sidelines, if you will, while your characters tell the story.

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    1. I definitely do enjoy letting my characters tell their own story! :) Glad you do too!

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