The Writer's Circle – Week #7 [Know Your Characters]
Hello everyone and welcome to Week #7 of the Writer's Circle! This week features an article by Lisa Shearin called: “Dueling With Words, Really get to know your characters.” It deals with character development. To what depth should you develop your characters? Does a more developed character make the story easier to write? She gives her opinions on both in this article. My discussion questions will follow the the article and deal with the same topic! Please enjoy! Oh, and one more thing. I will be moving the Writer's Circle post dates from Monday to Tuesday to better accommodate my schedule. My weekends are being spent more and more on other projects and it has frequently delayed the Monday postings of the Writer's Circle. Hopefully moving the Writer's Circle posts to Tuesday will help me keep a more regular deadline schedule. So from now on I will be posting The Writer's Circle dicussions on Tuesday at 10:00am US Central Standard Time (my time). You will probably need to do the math to figure the difference if you are not in this time zone...sorry. I hope you continue to enjoy reading and participating in the Writer's Circle discussions just as much as I enjoy writing them! Thanks again!
Dueling With Words
Really get to know your characters
By: Lisa Shearin
FOR ME, hitting a snag in a book usually happens like this: I'm writing, everything's going great, I'm in the zone, and the words are flowing. Then I move on to the next scene or chapter, and I hit a wall. The writing slows to a trickle or stops dead in its tracks, and my characters refuse to cooperate. And the only thing that force-feeding words into their mouths is going to get me is more bogged down.
Most often the problem is that I don't feel comfortable with the scene, and if I'm not comfortable, my characters aren't comfortable. All this discomfort boils down to one or two things – either I'm writing the wrong scene for the wrong time in the book, or the scene doesn't belong in the book. Period.
But what if I know it's the right scene at the right time and the words still aren't flowing? When I'm in the zone, it's like I'm eavesdropping on my characters and typing what they're saying as fast as I can. It's like a runner's high for writers. To get into the zone, I have to do two things: Shut up, and listen.
I'm a bit of a control freak, and that concept seeps onto the page or screen. Listening seems like such a simple thing, but it's not. Writers on a deadline want to control the direction their book takes, the pace at which it is written, and the schedule it should stick to. I'm on my fourth book, and it's just now starting to sink through my thick skull that I really don't have much, if any, control over these things – and I never will. A book is a creative work, and creativity refuses to punch a time clock.
The only way I can get toe words flowing again is to sit quietly and completely immerse myself in the scene. I've been with my characters a long time, and I know them well. But just like family and friends, my characters will occasionally throw me a curve ball. Like real people, characters grow and change. I learn more about them with each book. Their personalities, physical mannerisms, and the way they talk and react in a given situation changes over time.
The key to good writing is to get to know your characters just as well as you know the real people in your life. I should probably say flesh-and-blood people, because as most writers will tell you, their characters are like real people to them.
You know what your husband/wife/significant other/best friend would say or do in any given situation because you know him or her that well. Though sometimes he or she will surprise you and do something completely different and unexpected. It's what keeps life interesting. And when the same thing happens with your characters, and you capture it in your book, it's what will keep your readers turning the pages.
And here's a little bit about Lisa Shearin:
--Lisa Shearin, author of
The Trouble With Demons and other fantasy-adventure novels, blogs about fiction writing at www.lisashearin.com/blog.cfm.
OK, lets talk about developing your characters. Is it really necessary to go so in depth with you characters? I think so. I know that there are people who like to develop their characters as they go along, but how easy is it to consistently write with underdeveloped characters? I personally feel that I need to know a lot about my characters before putting them down into a story. I make it a point to not use my characters unless they are completely fleshed out. Of course, you can not plan for everything, and even my fully developed characters, as Lisa says, “will occasionally throw me a curve ball.”
Lets talk about who's in control when it comes to writing. Lisa says that she has little to no control as to which direction her novels go, and that it is completely in the hands of her characters. I find it hard to believe that there is little she could do to direct her novel. That seems a little extreme. I know that after I have plotted my story and have started running with it, my characters can take the story in many different directions. However, I can always steer the main line of the story in the necessary direction, if my characters begin to stray.
And another thing, how do you treat your characters? When it comes to status, do you treat them as a “member of your family?” I'm sure it can feel like it sometimes. I know that I feel I know my characters like best friends. How about the rest of you all? How do you relate to your characters? I for one, develop my characters so much that it feels like I'm privy to every facet of their existence. Which in a way is true I guess, since I created them. Anyways, thats all I have for this week. I hope you enjoyed reading this weeks entry.
Just as a heads up, I'm working on a HUGE post on character development. I've asked a friend of mine, who is also an author, to give her opinions/process on developing her characters. On top of this I will go over my methods/processes of developing characters and even scan one of my character sheets, and embed it into the post, for you all to see. Hopefully you will all enjoy it. I'm not sure when it will be posted but probably a couple of posts from now.