I don’t create characters; all I do is get to know them better.
Which sounds like I’m making excuses. Seriously, I’m not. But this is how it happens for me. A character pops into my head, without much substance.
“Oh hello,” I say, and they might nod or point to something nearby or wave or change their hair colour right before my eyes.
But aside from that, they’re not very interesting.
I need to get to know them. Understand what they want, what they need, what’s in their way and what aspect of their character they’re in denial about.
Everyone’s in denial about something. That’s human nature.
As Cara Gabriel posted earlier - there are many things you need to ask your character to get to know them.
Sure, I can plot out some basic elements of the overall story, but without knowing the characters, I have no story.
Recently, I had a blazing hot idea about rebooting an historical legend. Let’s call him Sir Lancelot. (It’s not Sir Lancelot. I’m throwing you off the scent. Or *am* I?) But from then on I only had the general idea. I didn’t have true character.
I used Cara’s questions and worked out my character’s goals, motivations and conflicts. I wanted to know what they wanted most from life. What they feared. Why they did what they did. What (or who?) was in their way?
But most of all, what was the glaringly obvious character flaw everyone else could see but they couldn’t? Their blind spot. Their weakness. Their kryptonite.
The characters lead me on a merry chase, get me into arguments, get lost, land in trouble and fall in love. They are in control, not me.
Yet I’m the writer. I should be in control, yes?
No. When characters become real, they are the ones in charge.
I’m merely along for the ride.
Next time you have a blazing hot idea that burns to be written, use Cara’s 10 questions to get to know your characters. Find out what they most desire in life. Why is it out of reach? Will they hurt people along the way (even when they don’t mean to. Especially if they don’t mean to).
When you know your characters, the story will flow.
Ebony McKenna is a fantastically imaginative author whose scope and story-telling encompasses the bizarre, the mysterious and the romantic. Her Ondine books are a sparkling combination of romance and magic – perfect for teen girls. Written with genuine humour and unique eccentricity, the series is an obvious choice for fans of The Princess Bride and Ella Enchanted.
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