Checking out jespah’s great blog, ‘Barking up the Muse Tree’, I opted to steal one of her ideas – I mean I was inspired – to try to write a character review for one of my characters. Tis an interesting thought process and writing exercise and all that like!
But then I get stuck.
At a loss.
Truthfully, it’s quite a daunting thing to me. I know it may be sacrilegious to say so but I just don’t do the know your characters inside and out thing. I don’t know if they have siblings, their birthdates, their favourite colours, when or if they broke their leg playing sports in college.
Is there something wrong with me as a writer? (Please feel free to not tell there is!) I try to cover for this lapse in my writerly field by saying to myself that is an organic process and that I am giving myself ‘wiggle room’ for future stories for the characters to take unexpected or new paths. That’s probable a blatant excuse but one I am willing to take.
For me, I get a sense of the characters – of who they are, their outer and their inner voice, and once I get that down I suppose I can transplant myself into their lives at whatever point in it and imagine what is maybe happening/happened. I guess I just don’t do well with the details of their birth dates, their height and weight measurements, etc. I suppose I don’t see those details as being important to the character. Instead it is more the concept of who the character is and maybe the why or how of they were created/designed that is my process.
And yet I can stand over my writing and say I know my characters. I find it hard to describe them perhaps to others. I have my vision of them but trying to sum them up either in a physical description or summarise their characteristics is just too damn hard for me to do. Maybe I leave too much up to the reader to envision. Maybe. Maybe I should be able to list the traits of my characters, number them off on my fingers. Maybe. But I can’t or won’t. It’s not my approach and if I do do that, I always feel as though I am short changing the character and the person I am trying to relate the character to. I mean to me, the character might well be a bastard most of the time but that doesn’t mean the character can’t be a sentimental sod under the right circumstances. I’d sooner just have their story tell you about them.
If I put stuff down on paper about the character, their back-story or details not yet told in story, I find myself getting irked by those details. I find that suddenly the character doesn’t feel vibrant to me, isn’t in the moment or happening. Maybe because, in real life while we can probably all be boiled down to stats, dates and traits I rather think of us being a reveal to one another day by day.
Is that wrong? No, not thinking that thought is bleh, but the fact I don’t have folders on my characters with copious notes. Instead, I just the notion of them, all tucked safely inside my head.
However, I am going to try and am going to try and do a character review in the ilk of jespah’s and put it up here for your interest. Lemme know if there’s any particular character you’d like for me to try and present such a thought process on.
Now, time for some MeanderFave Homework
So over to you, tell me:
What approaches do you take to writing and conceiving your characters? Do you have their milestones and the path that made them mapped out already? Do you perhaps also have their future map laid out? How do you go about realising and bringing from conception to written reality your characters?
Let me know in comments here, or take a leaf from jespah’s and blog about it.