I’m kicking off this round of Weekly Writers’ Ramble with a discussion of crafting characters. Stay tuned for next week when J.F. Lewis drops in to tell us about his new book “Grudgeberer” and how he came up with the hero.
In fiction there are generally two broad classifications of stories. One is action driven stories and the other is character driven stories. While there can be overlap, usually a story falls into one camp or another. A good example of the former that comes to mind would be Ray Bradbury’s short story, “There Will Come Soft Rains”. The story is more about the atmosphere and events than any specific character. It’s one I read in middle school and since it was still the Cold War era, it left an impression that has lasted to this day.
Character driven fiction involves the growth or change of characters and how events shape that change. When it comes to my own fiction, I write primarily character driven fiction. Stuff happens, but it is the characters which make the story.
Remember, there is no one right way to create a character. There are oodles of how-to books and whatever method that works for you is fine. Some people craft their characters as rough outlines of people they know. Others follow a D&D sort of approach. Some might sketch their character, or interview them.
My approach is a bit more nebulous than that and harks back to my fondness for make-believe as a child. As I think about a story idea, more often than not a character simply starts coalescing in my mind. Tala, from Fated Bonds, marched into my head, suited up in her police uniform and with a no-nonsense attitude. She’s “Law and Order” meets urban fantasy. Her past, present, and future got worked out as I went, the same as when I played space aliens with my siblings and I was the alien queen that had to lead my army to victory.
So for me, finding my characters involves opening that door in my mind and stepping back to my childhood. I suppose I can credit “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” for my fondness of make-believe and for teaching me that it was not something that was just for little kids. While the stories I write are generally adult in nature, it’s that same “let’s pretend” state of mind. As such, some characters are harder to write. The farther outside of my experience, the darker, crueler, or more twisted, it takes more effort for me to put on their persona as I write them. I’ve found that the more I write and read, the easier this becomes.
Feel free to comment on how you craft your characters, or what it is about your favorite literary or genre characters that makes them so real to you.
If you’re interested in meeting my characters, wander over to Amazon and slip between the digital (or hard copy) pages of my books.