February 25, 2011

Building a Character

Sadly, it’s nothing like building something from a kit. Paint by numbers. Glue part C to part D and attach to parts A and B. Nope. It only it were that simple.

And the great thing about characters? They’re ALL different. Like people. Which means creating them is rarely the same process twice. Goooody.

Really, it’s fun to make people. It’s like…very powerful feeling. And if you’re like me…you create them them and then you stick ’em in a jar and shake it up real good and watch teh magic happen.

But characterization can be a tricky, tricky beast…and I won’t even pretend I figure it out easily every time. Sometimes, yes, characters are loud. They come roaring in. They know what they want and how they want to get it. They tell me where they came from, why they are the way they are. Yay. I love those characters.

I don’t always get them. Like…I rarely do.

There are a lot of things that go in to making a character a real person, and not just your puppet that you pull around. Your characters have to make decisions that make sense to who they are as people. It goes back to a-way back when I was working on my second book, and I had my hero coerce my heroine onto a plane. “Why would she get on the plane with him?” my editor asked…”Because I needed her to,” I said.

*headdesk*

It didn’t make sense. I was guilty of manipulating my character, making her look stupid, so advance the plot. Bad me. Because that’s going to make for a character that readers can’t connect with, because they can’t figure her out!

That doesn’t mean a character can’t change, or that who she is can’t be at odds with what she’s trying to show the world. Heck, we all go through that. Your heroine may be terrified on the inside while she takes a step into the unknown, and she may be acting brave. That’s not a contradiction. To me that’s what makes a character three dimensional.

Because having a character that is equally confident in all aspects of life may not ring true. My heroine in An Accidental Birthright, Alison, is confident in her ability as a lawyer, but she is decidedly less confident when thrust into the role of princess in a foreign country. So while I would characterize her as a confident character, it doesn’t mean she reacts to every situation with “I’ve got this. I’m confident”.

It’s the same with a hero too, even an alpha hero. The power comes in finding those moments where he isn’t confident…ideally it’s the heroine that gets him! 😉

Your characters pasts will influence them too. Their goals, their decisions, their hang-ups.

It’s also really important not to fall back on stereotypes. He’s an alpha male so that means he’ll do this…well, maybe, but what if he’s an alpha male who’s afraid he’ll fail at love again because he feels he was a bad husband to his first wife? That will change the way he acts. What he avoids.

What about a heroine who’s a twenty-four year old virgin. Great! WHY? She was exposed to her mother’s endless string of failed relationships and is afraid of losing herself to all-consuming, unhealthy passion the way her mother did. There ya go. 🙂

Those things will enrich your characters and make them people we can root for and relate too. Because trust me, when it comes to character elements, when someone asks why your character is something/did something…’because’ doesn’t work as an answer.

I’ve tried.

Happy Character building! (I am aware I have rambled a bit…many apologies…)


Comments

4 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. Yes, just answering ‘because’ never worked all that well with my kids either.

    A well-rounded and well motivated character makes a book. It’s not an easy thing to write, though. If you ever come up with the secret kit, feel free to pass it my way.

  2. Julia, it’s really not easy. It never really is. But it’s rewarding. The discover, and the moment when you feel it all click…yeah, that makes it all worth it!

  3. Hi Maisey,

    No need to apologise! I love your ramblings. For me there’s an awful lot to learn and your ramblings teach a lot!

  4. Always glad to help. I know I’ve said it before, but so much of this is reinforcing for ME. If it helps anyone else I’m always thrilled. 😉

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