Monday, April 09, 2007

What a Character!

I include a photograph of a very young Margaret Mitchell here because the discussion is character, and Ms. Mitchell knew how to create some very memorable characters. Even for those people who have never read, "Gone with the Wind" or seen the film of the novel (hard to believe, but true -- I have a friend who has experienced neither), almost everyone has at least heard of and knows something about Scarlett O'Hara and/or Rhett Butler.

Characters are the backbone of our story. Character is plot. The goals, motivations and conflicts of our characters are what move our stories forward. Do you regularly sketch out your plot when beginning a new story, or do you instead begin by making a profile of your main characters?

I recently had an idea for a new story, but am waiting to flesh out the acts until I get to know more about my main characters. I've been greatly blessed in the past couple of years to meet more than a handful of new people that could stand alone in a story as larger-than-life characters. Normally, I combine the traits of at least five or six people I either personally know or learn about through friends, newspaper articles, etc. I currently don't have to blend so many people into the birth of the characters of my current works-in-progress.

Usually I really get into developing the hero and heroine of my story. However, I'm currently in a phase where I mostly enjoy creating some of the more minor characters of a story. Maybe I feel more of a sense of freedom in making the minor characters a little more grandiose. Maybe the real-life people that I've met seem more over-the-top than most of the other people I know, so I want to capture them somehow in a story with a menagerie of my other creations.

Do you have any special technique for developing your characters? What people have inspired you in your creations? What character has been your favorite one to develop?


Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

My favorite character: Robert Pidela. He showed up in my head back in the 7th grade as my hero's brother and I finally started writing his story last year. It's been on hold for the time being, but he is so alive in my mind that I wouldn't be surprised to meet him in the flesh someday.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Robin L. Rotham said...

My characters always come to me long before any semblence of a plot does. Of the characters I've created so far, my favorite heroine is Monica, from my EC book Alien Overnight -- she's gutsy and funny and bristles with attitude. My favorite hero is Barrett from BIG Trouble. Of Barrett, one of my beta readers said, "I want to dislike him, but he's just so vulnerable!"

Yup, I'm all about characterization. No matter how stellar the plot is, if I don't LOVE and/or HATE the characters in a story I read or write, I feel my time has been totally wasted.

10:32 PM  

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