Most of us as would-be writers want to get out books into someone’s hands, but don’t always understand how to make the characters in our heads as likeable or engaging to someone who only has the black-magic-marks-on-white-paper to go by. Kate Daniels, for example, was raised to be an unfeeling killer and is often kind of grim. But we love her. How a writer can/should communicate this kind of chemistry with the reader would be a valuable insight
There is a simple trick to this: do you like your character? Do you, as a writer, feel affection for the character you’ve created? Do they amuse you? Do you feel for them when you write their struggles? Writing is a contact sport. If you are emotionally involved, it will show on the page. If you are emotionally detached, you will get comments like, “I just couldn’t connect with the character. There is distance. I lost interest. I am bored.”
You probably read writers say dramatic nonsense like “I suffer for my art” and “I bleed on the page.” Overwrought snowflakeness aside, they do have a point. Normally we build emotional barriers, a kind of defense to help us survive, otherwise we would go crazy and suffer a nervous breakdown every time we watch the news. We buffer the world and our emotions a little bit. When you’re writing, you can’t do that.
By forcing your characters through the narrative, you are putting yourself through an emotionally taxing experience. What are they feeling here? How are they reacting there? How does their chest feel when they watch their brother die?
If you do it for awhile, everything will start to affect you deeply. I am not normally a sentimental person, but we are right now digging into Hidden Legacy 4 and I watched a video of a kitty on Facebook looking at a video of her recently deceased owner on the phone. She watched it very intently and then rubbed on the phone, and I hysterically cried. I am crying as I am typing this.
You have to emotionally engage. It will make you a basket-case. That’s the price we pay.
Regarding an article on writing by Gordon and Ilona, I was wondering if they might address the issue of writing a Character Bible? Do they create them? How do they go about it? Do they find it helpful, especially when writing a series? At the beginning of a series are the main characters especially given an extremely detailed backstory, family history, characteristics, likes, dislikes, skills etc that is strictly adhered to throughout the story? Is it added to as the series progresses? Anything they would like to share in regards to this subject would be extremely appreciated. Thank you!
None of this is writing.
None of this is words on the page. It doesn’t get you closer to the finish line. It doesn’t result in pay. And most of the time it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares about all of that background information. It’s not important. What’s important is how your character will react when they find a lame horse being beaten in the street by his owner. You can’t figure that out until you write it.
We do not do character bibles. The most we ever do is note height and skin, eye, and hair color.
If you want to do a character bible, do it. But ask yourself, is this an excuse to put off writing? Would the time be better spent jumping into the narrative and then filling in important details are you go along? Writing is difficult and character bibles are a fun distraction. Try to not get carried away. There is a real danger that if you describe every quirk and trial of the character, when you actually get to writing, they will come off as overworked and lifeless.
I would love to hear about your process as far as character development. You do such a fantastic job of keeping us agog to learn more about your characters throughout the books and series. So much so that I read for that perhaps more than the outer plots.
We do not do any sort of formal character development. We simply sit down and write and figure it out as we go. The thing to keep in mind is that the character is always a product of their environment.
Your characters are a product of their environment. They are shaped by their life experiences. Two boys of the same age, one a beggar on the street and the other a spoiled rich kid, may react completely differently to the same ethical dilemma, or they may react the same. The question is why? What happened to them to make them this way? You don’t need to write it down or inform the reader, unless it’s absolutely necessary. But you should think about it and figure out what makes your made up people tick. 🙂
More on characters in a later post.