Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Do Your Characters Speak to You? Do You Listen?


I had a great conversation recently was a fellow author about characterization, and the importance of making their fictitious characters REAL.

What makes a character real? I asked.

I suppose they are like the rest of us, was the answer. They say the right things based on their likes and dislikes; perhaps where they sit in a family situation, whether first or fifth in line. They do the right things. You can count on them to visit particular places and settings.

Photo by: Menage a Moi, courtesy of Flickr

So what happens when your character doesn't feel like that to you?
I asked.

Well, you're probably not listening to them them, he answered.

Listen to a character?

You bet.

Have you ever been writing along merrily, when suddenly what you have written seems awkward, almost forced?

I have.

And the best thing I can do is to stop and take notice. The scene I have just written, does it run true for the character, or am I forcing the character into a place he/she wouldn't really go?

Is the character speaking like themselves, or like me? Do I want the character to say something so bad I forget that the character might just feel differently about that?

Okay, so maybe we writers are a little bit crazy. I'm almost saying here that we hear voices... but I want you to reflect on the last time you wrote dialogue.

Did you listen?

Was it more important to get the feelings of the character authentic over your agenda for them?

There's something soothing and yes, REAL about a character who appears real on paper because we've remembered to listen.

So listen...

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