Learn to Love Them – They’re Going to Be With You Forever

August 10, 2010 at 5:32 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Okay, maybe forever is a slight exaggeration but you really do have to be able to deal with having your characters in your head for a long time.

You spend so much time making them real, getting to know them, putting the through hardships and helping them overcome difficulties. You watch them grow – you help them to grow. You direct them and guide them and shape them at every turn.

Elspeth had an excellent post last week on characters when she shared her 10 Tips for Non-Perfection. It was her list to help the writers out there not view their characters through rose tinted glasses and it is a great list – well worth the read.

As a writer I’m truly cruel to my characters – particularly in drafting stages. Mostly because I want to see how my character reacts under every kind of pressure I can throw at them. In the end I usually pick the crisis that has the most interesting reaction and go with it, but when I’m still developing the character I can be really nasty to them.

But when all of that is said and done, underneath, I still really love my characters and can feel pretty caught up in their lives at times. One particular WIP that I’m still thinking about revising continues to stump me mostly because in the face of the massive danger being faced, nobody dies. Well, one character does, but we didn’t really like them and other than a brief mention in act one they really failed to have an impact.

I didn’t even intentionally write it that way.

It just turned out that after I’d finished the various minor skirmishes that were going on in the huge and dusty battle, every named character (villain or hero) tragically survived. It was a cold blooded conversation with a friend when I sat down with the draft and started systematically listing each character’s attributes and why they should die/live. I still haven’t actually rewritten it.

How do you and your characters get along?

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15 Comments

  1. RaShelle said,

    I love them all at one point or another – even “the bad guys.” This is because I know they are going to make my story great or totally fall apart. At times I’ve had to have “the talk” with one or two of them – make sure they are crystal clear on the fact they their lives will be ending at some point. Overall, things are as they should be. LOL

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      How do your characters take the news that they’re only temporary?

  2. Brown Eyed Mystic said,

    “It just turned out that after I’d finished the various minor skirmishes that were going on in the huge and dusty battle, every named character (villain or hero) tragically survived.”

    I love reading stories where everyone survives in spite of the grave circumstances–only thing it should flow natural. The fact that you wrote it out and let everyone live unintentionally makes me think this must be a delicious read nevertheless!

    -BrownEyed

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Possibly it works as far as flow but as a reader I feel cheated if the great danger isn’t actually that dangerous. I don’t know. I feel somehow that the big bad should actually live up to its hype and too many survivors is not a good way to get that across to the reader.

  3. Agatha82 said,

    Love them? I think I am IN love with my main character *giggles* Okay, that was embarassing to admit. Yeah, I love all my characters, even the bad ones because they’re not cartoonish bad people with only bad traits. Okay, I have trouble killing anyone, nobody has died in my novel yet but it’s not that kind of novel with lots of battles and death etc, however, the sequel to it, will be…eek

  4. Lynn Rush said,

    Great post!

    I love my characters. And I, too, put them through the wringer really badly on the first draft. They take surprising turns and develop unexpected character flaws, but I love it.

    It’s fun getting to know my characters. I often go throughout my normal work day and think, “Oh, how would Trinity respond to this?” Or, “I bet Caleb would be pissed and whip out his sword right about now.” Little things like that . .. They’re almost like my best friends.

  5. Jemi Fraser said,

    And this is why I like endings to be pretty happy ones. I love my characters and don’t want to leave them devastated and sad. I need them to have some joy and hope! 🙂

  6. AlexJ said,

    I get along with them, including my main character who’s rather unlikeable at first.

  7. Hart said,

    I have a really hard time being rotten enough because I love them too much. I am usually best off when I somehow convince myself to be as rotten as I can think of, because I’m just not as rotten as I need to be. I know… hard to believe…

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  9. Alex Willging said,

    I tend to look at my characters from a conversational perspective, like giving them an informal questionnaire when I’m developing a story or in the middle of writing it. I ask them things like, “So where do you want to end up when this adventure’s over?” or “What line will you absolutely not cross?” They’ll also tell me about their past and the kind of childhood they had and how it’s shaped them and so on.

    It’s not always rosy. I do have a few old characters with whom I’m not on good speaking terms. They know what they did…

  10. Carol J. Garvin said,

    I keep my distance at first… dropping disasters and stumbling blocks at every turn and watching how the characters cope. I don’t really know them well enough to love them until the first draft is complete. The villains get their due — whatever it takes to resolve things in a way that’s satisfying — but I don’t find it necessary to always have them eliminated. Some of my favourite characters carry over as minor ones in other books which is a convenient way of not having to let them go. 🙂

  11. tahliaN said,

    Oh I love them, but when I killed one of them off in the last book of my YA fantasy series Diamond Peak and my daughter read the draft ( it’s still in draft form) she was so disappointed and so angry at me, that I changed it. I had a less well known character take that bullet.

    Got to think of the readers too, right?

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Always have to think about the readers and for some reason people don’t like it when you kill off their favourite characters.

  12. catwoods said,

    I love my pirates. I would move onto their houseboat and sail away to forever with them.

    Great post.

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