Dramaquill's All Things Writing

January 14, 2008

Paying attention to your characters

Every writer has their own methods of developing their stories.  For some, they plot and plan everything out on paper before tackling the writing.  For others, they write freely and worry about making it all fit together once they begin their rewrite.

For me, it’s as simple as listening to my characters.

What does my heroine fear most?  What does she want?  What is she willing to do to get it? 

Why is my villain acting and reacting as he does?  How is his life intertwined with my heroine?  What drives him?

I spent a lot of time developing the characters for my suspense novel.  I researched the type of crime I felt inclined to write about and I poured over information about victims of such crimes.  I spoke to counselors and the authorities.  I interviewed someone who’s life situation had similar circumstances to what I had planned for my heroine.

Then, I listened.  As I wrote each chapter, distinct voices emerged.  My heroine shared her innermost fears and desires with me and her story began to take shape in a whole new light.  My villain, who still scares me, took on a dimension of a human person, rather than a stereotypical “bad guy”.  I still really don’t like him, but I’m beginning to understand why he does some of the things he does. 

My characters have been instrumental in helping me create a much stronger manuscript in this final revision.  I feel like I could meet these people on the street and I would instantly know them.  I can see their worlds so visually clear inside my head.  I hear their voices as if we’ve already met.  They aren’t just characters inside my head – they are real.

So what are your characters trying to say to you?  Are you paying attention?

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