Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Creating characters for a story


"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves." Carl Jung

  There is something enigmatic about the art of crafting a character. Once the characters become vivid to us, they acquire a life of their own. We no longer control their experiences.
  Last year I wrote a blog entry that said that characters don't need to be likable, but they do need to feel real. However, I also have to admit that it is easier to seduce your readers when they root for one of your characters. In other words, when readers identify with one of your characters in some way, they feel more motivated to read the story because they imagine themselves in the character’s situation. They are eager to know what would happen to them if they did what the character is doing.
  As a writer you dare to explore emotional situations that make others feel embarrassed, scared or threatened. Being a fiction writer involves the challenging task of being in somebody else’s shoes because you need to see the world from your character’s perspective.
     This is an invitation to open your mind to possibilities you've never imagined before. You experience a new life, forging your way through a labyrinth you are not entirely familiar with. It means stepping out of your comfort zone. You need to be bold.
    When you embark on this challenge, you are behaving like an actor or actress. You bring your characters to life by exposing your own shame, frustration, love, passion, insecurities, fears, anger or whatever emotions are needed. 
   This experience can be very profound and it needs an open mind and heart. It requires compassion and patience. Otherwise, the story will not sound real. It will sound judgmental and shallow. Even if you don't agree with your character, you make every attempt to understand him/her.
   A part of you needs to love the character, and while you write your story you become the character, but you are not the character.
     So, as a reader, do you like to identify with at least one of the characters in a story? 
   As a writer, what is your relationship with your characters like? 

16 comments:

  1. I do like to be able to identify with one of the characters in a story/novel I might be reading. It isn't always necessary, but does enhance my enjoyment.

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    1. Thanks, Nellie. I agree with you. When I identify with a character, I enjoy the story more.

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  2. I have enjoyed books where I didn't identify with the characters. In that case though the characters do need to be likeable, I think. It doesn't matter how it's done, but the reader must care about or be interested in the charcter or they won't want to continue reading.

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    1. Thanks, Patsy. Likable characters hook us more easily. But I have enjoyed stories in which the characters were not likable. Lolita By Nabokov is one that comes to my mind. There are others.

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  3. Nice post. I definitely identify with my characters. And, when I'm reading, I want to identify with the main character or I tend to stop reading.

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    1. I understand what you mean. But then the question is: what makes us identify with a specific character?

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  4. As a reader yes, I always like to identify with at least one of the characters. This allows me to become vested in the story.

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    1. Yes, now we should be discussing what is the source of identification to make this discussion more specific. Thanks for commenting, Keith.

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  5. As a reader, I try to identify with the protagonist, but it's hard when the protag is female or young, since I'm an old male. But if the character is well drawn, I can usually find a connection with their goals and conflicts.

    As a writer, I always "see" the characters and the setting as I write a scene. I go back and forth as I write dialogue, trying to figure out how they'll respond to the previous comment, what they'll say or do next, what body language they'll use (and I try to give them at least one tic or telltale look or action that helps differentiate them from other characters).

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    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

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  6. I have so much to learn. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh, thanks, Rick. I didn't intend to teach anything. It is something based on my personal experience, and I thought it would lead to an interesting discussion. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. Hi Julia, I do like to identify with atleast one of the characters in my story.

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  8. I think you have hit the nail on the head for me. Before blogging, it was a rare thing for me to pick up any book and read. If I can't get into the first few pages then I'm done.

    I think this was because I would start to read a book and I couldn't identify with any of the characters, not only on a personal level but I couldn't get my hooks into what or who the characters were, or where the writer was heading. So I guess, I got bored very easily.

    I also get very frustrated when authors have all these many strange, complicated, hard to read words which they use for character names or places all slammed into the first few pages causing me great confusion. I hate having to go back to the first couple of pages just trying to remember who or what the author is referring to.
    I like characters to be brought in bit by bit so I get to know them. I want to get involved with the character/s, and track them throughout the book.

    I'm clearly no expert when it comes to writing but I do know what I like to read or maybe I'm just not a great book lover but I really enjoy reading blogs.
    Actually I do remember reading books as a child.

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    1. Thank you for your feedback. I hope you will not give up on literature. Diving into a book can be a profound experience, but you need to read stories that hook you. It is like falling in love or befriending somebody. You need to have some kind of special chemistry with the author in order to enjoy the story.

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I appreciate each and every comment. Thank you.