Monday, September 1, 2008

Next link on the Blog Chain: How Real are Your Characters?

It is time again for a round on the ol’ blog chain. And the topic up for consideration: how real are your characters to you and how well do you know them? The last post was from the always excellent Archetype and the next post will be from our lovely Sandra.

This is kind of a difficult question for me to answer, because to be honest, I really am not sure. I do get attached to my characters. I think about them all the time. I can’t wait to find out what will happen to them (even though for the most part I know what will happen….but, things change sometimes). I had a hard time moving on to my new book from my first book because I didn’t want to let the characters go. I hear their voices in my head as I write (often it is the reason that I do write). So in this sense they are very real to me.

I do not know every little detail about them, although what I do not know, I will create when needed. I can describe their features down to the tiny hairline crack in someone’s front tooth; but I do not really see their face clearly in my head. When I write a scene, I know how my character will react. I’ve created their personality and to a certain extent I am bound by what I have created. If I have a bad guy pull a gun on my main character, I know if she would fall apart and scream, or if she would stand stoically and stare him down. And it is very obvious when you deviate from a character’s given personality. But, if I need my character to break down, and it isn’t something that is really in her personal makeup to do, I manipulate it so she will believably behave the way I want her to.

There is a quote I love by Vladimir Nabokov about his characters. “That trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills. My characters are my galley slaves.”

This is the way I feel to a certain extent. I know my characters. I get attached to my characters. I have a hard time killing them off (and sometimes can’t do it at all). I watch them in my mind, like I’m watching a movie, and I write what I see. And often, the given plan of how a scene is going to go is completely changed, because as I write, the movie plays out differently than expected. But, I do what's needed for the story whether my character wishes it or no :D

While I write, my characters are real, the unexpected happens, the characters are kind of in charge. But after the words are on the page, when I go into edit mode armed with my delete key, then my characters cease to be as “real,” and become my toys to do with as I please. Then I will hack away at whatever poured from my mind. I manipulate and change and rearrange and do whatever else needs to be done in order to get things the way I want them. My characters are real to me, but not to the point that they are in control…at least not for long :D And I know them as well as I need to. I have no idea how Minuette from Treasured Lies would take her tea. But if the situation arose, I would figure it out.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. I love that you manipulate your characters so they'll behave the way you want them to. Sometimes I can do that to mine and sometimes they are so stubborn and they absolutely refuse to do what I write for them to do. That's when there's a real war in my head. Sheesh. You think these people would just be glad we brought them to life! Anyway, great job.

celticqueen said...

LOL yeah, they are ungrateful like that :) I tried to kill a character off in my first book but he just wouldn't die :) Well, either that or I was just so attached I couldn't do it :D

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oooh, I absolutely love that quote! Awesome post!

H. L. Dyer said...

You and I are certainly simpatico. :)

You joined the chain after the post on writing methods, but I write the same way... I see the scenes playing out like a movie and write them along the way.

Great Entry!!

Cole Gibsen said...

That's so funny because I am the same as well. I see everything as a movie, and sometimes I play certain songs over and over during a "scene" because it helps me visualize.

Abi said...

Wow. There is so much about my characters in your post. That quote is AWESOME!!! You know how I like quotes, heehee. Well done, my friend.

Archetype said...

BRAVO! That was wonderful!! My favorite line? Sorry, Nabokov doesn't get it, it's something you wrote: "if I need my character to break down, and it isn’t something that is really in her personal makeup to do, I manipulate it so she will believably behave the way I want her to."


As for killing them off...I've only ever tried to kill one off that I couldn't. He just kept getting up. I have had characters die that I didn't expect to. I'm like doing writerly CPR on them and failing...

Does that make me, like, really weird?

Wait, never mind, don't answer that.

Mary Lindsey said...

I love the Nabokov quote. Fabulous post. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I, too, play scenes in my head like a movie.

Great post!