Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Characters

A friend asked me: "How do you come up with your characters?"

I fear my answer will be quite unsatisfactory. They just come.

Usually, a story idea starts with a "What if x happened?"
Or, because I mostly write Fantasy: "What if a place existed where X had happened or Y was real?"

Then, usually, I world build. As a person is influenced by their environment, my character is in equal parts dependent on the social structure, ethnic identity (and it's relation to the existing powers and history)and the characters' own psychology, home life. So I start with the world.

The character is a "what if such a person existed in this world? and if they had to overcome this particular dilema, how would it play out?"

Then, I sit back and go for the ride, so to speak. On the page, enhanced by the character's perspective, convictions and so forth, the world and character come alive.

So it is partially conscious, but half of the character comes out in the process of writing. Sometimes the pieces fall together in a completely unexpected way. Then revision becomes imperative. Sometimes the characters take on more qualities and different personalities/complexities in the process of revising than reveal themselves in the first draft.

I know this sounds vague, but it's all that can be said. As Melissa and I discussed last week, the personality of characters is largely affected by the mental state of the writer. Things change day to day, or over time. Like dreams, writing seems to tap the subconscious. So while writing daily can make the "subconscious" easier to tap, the precise interaction between the two is hard to explain. Honestly, i wouldn't be surprised if it worked differently for every writer. Hope this answers the question!


V said...

That's interesting, because my method is the exact opposite of yours.

The characters come to me first. I can't count how many times I've had someone pop up, wave their hands, frantically saying "Here I am!!!" And so they're the ones who shape the world. I may have an outline, a vague mishmash of ideas on what and where their world is, but in the end, they're the ones who decide what their surroundings are. Controlling little buggers. XD

the chopping block said...

How fluid is your characters' characters? In other words, how do you keep the natures/personalities of your characters consistent if they are based on your mental states, which I would assume don't remain constant day to day?

drea moore said...

The characters change over years, not over days. While mental state affects things, the characters are very strongly "themselves" too. It takes a lot for them to "change" that dramatically. That said, characters travel over an arc. There is a certain (consistent) amount of change they are expected to undergo. So if I'm plodding along, the character should be gradually changing, anyhow.

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