Let your characters grow

Karalee’s Post #49

Fiction writers make up their characters, using both personal experience and their imagination. Many writers document their character’s traits and what significant experiences they had from their childhood onward into adulthood, experiences that have molded them to think and act the way they do.

I do this as well, but one of the most exciting parts of my writing is when my characters take on their own life and forward the plot in unintended directions, creating themselves and their world through my fingertips despite my outlining their lives scene-by-scene. Often this isn’t the most efficient or intelligent thing to do despite it feeling so good at the time if I allow my characters to behave uncharacteristically.

This stream-of-consciousness writing can easily become a major rewrite pain when in fact it doesn’t have to if I wrote with a bit more controlled intention.

I’ve never had a problem empty nesting and I don’t have separation anxiety as my children strive to find their own independence. But in my writing I need to be more of a nagging mother.

Actually the title of this post really should be ‘Control the growth of your characters.’      

Characters should and need to express themselves, but like helping to train my daughter’s dog, I need to maintain consistent traits that elicit specific behaviors, yet allow each character to play and explore and express individuality and grow through their experiences.

If I allow my characters’ traits to shift all over the place they will be unbelievable, which in turn will make my story unbelievable and have my 5Writer friends mark up my manuscript  like blood spurting from a cut artery.

The best scenario would be to know my characters as well as I know myself and then I could ask, “If I were so-and-so, what would I do or how would I react in that situation?”

Not until I’m really in the head of my characters can I make them behave the way I want, and to change the way I need them to. For me, this is where I need to focus my attention in my rewrite.

Happy writing.


2 thoughts on “Let your characters grow

  1. I think you’re bang-on about the value of really being able to step into the shoes of your characters. Kind of like role-playing. We often hear advice about how much a novelist can learn by doing some scriptwriting. I wonder what we might learn from taking some acting classes? Oh, and sorry about the spurting blood from the cut arteries … yikes!

    • I’m thinking you may have hit on a great idea for our 5writers group. Acting classes…write our own script…Broadway hit?? 🙂

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