I started reading a book about creating characters and realized that I’d written approximately 70k without really KNOWING my characters.
I mean I knew my characters, the parts they played in the story, their roles in the plot, who my main protagonist was, and the other main characters in the story, how they all fit together and independently, but what I didn’t know was all the details that made up those main people I was writing about.
Not surprisingly, I was able to make it through 25 chapters and although there were insights into their lives and the plot danced around aspects of their lives, I found the personal connection to my characters could have been much better.
I could picture my characters vividly in my mind, and I could see them interacting as they played out their roles. I didn’t give the reader a view into the personalities, the physical appearances, the psychological, cultural, moral and social attributes of the main players in the story, and I knew missing this made my story weak.
I’ve read stories where I simply loved the main characters and could identify with them, because the author had given me enough information that the character seemed real and pulled me into the story. I’ve also read stories that the main characters left me cold. Those are the stories where I felt I had no desire to follow their journey. The main characters took a back seat to the story and the plot, and yes, while one can argue that it’s still a story, I find it more fulfilling to follow someone’s journey and progress. That’s what makes a good story for me.
And so, I started to read about character development instead of writing and editing my manuscript. I needed to know how to ‘bring my characters to life’.
The key here is that if you can’t identify with the characters in a book, their emotions, their interaction with others, how they feel, why they do what they do, and what motivates them, why would anyone else want to read or know about them?
I’ve realized that I must do this with my characters as well, so with all my research done, I’ve set about detailing each character in my story, and all the details that make up that person’s make-up. Age, appearance, tags, what others think of them, how they act, what drives them, what motivates them, and all the psychological, cultural, moral and social attributes that make them who they are.
I realize I’m doing this backwards and should have done it from the very beginning, but my characters were so clear in my head and I did have a rough sketch of them laid out for reference, just not enough to really know them intimately. Funny thing is my characters have their own personalities and fight with me about the way they want to be written. I want good, they want bad, or vice versa. So, outlining them more clearly will help with that struggle.
It is a learning process for me, and probably always will be but each lesson learnt is a step in the right direction for creating a good story. And now, I’m rewriting from the beginning with character traits in mind, and hopefully it will be a stronger and more enjoyable read when complete.