I love character development. There’s just something so beautiful about creating an entirely new being out of nothing. I’m not a mother of real-life children, so I can’t exactly make an informed comparison, but I’m guessing it’s a similar sort of experience to watching a baby grow into adulthood (and beyond). As a writer, we get the incredible honour of shaping, moulding, and developing a “person”, while watching their life play out as they face challenge after challenge (which we also get to somewhat-sadistically create for them).
So, for today’s post, I’m answering a question sent in by Jeremy: I’d really like to hear about how you approach developing your characters.
My honest answer is going to make me sound like I belong in a padded cell, but the truth of the matter is that I don’t develop my characters – they develop themselves. Sure, I might come up with a few things to give them a nudge in the right direction, like how they look, how they speak, what they do, their motivations, etc. But after the first few pages my characters tend to write themselves. And, no joke, they often manage to surprise me. There are countless times where I’ve been lost in a ‘writing zone’ and gasped out loud when my characters have said or done something totally and completely unexpected. Actually, I was writing a few weeks ago and a part of my protagonist’s backstory just came out of nowhere and I literally cried out, “NO!” when it happened. I then (somewhat naïvely) took my fingers off the keyboard to cover my eyes and chant, “No way, not gonna happen. Delete, delete, delete.” But, of course, I couldn’t erase the words, because my character had already made them real for me. It was a beautiful agony. I hate that that particular thing happened to her, but she wouldn’t be who she is without having experienced that event in her past… So, it had to stay. (And I think I ate a whole bag of M&Ms as chocolate-therapy for the trauma before I was able to keep writing to find out what she was going to throw at me next).
Maybe it’s because I majored in Human Behaviour at uni, but for whatever reason, character development is something I really focus on when I write. The world-building is important, obviously, but to me, I’m more likely to get attached to a person than I am to a place or a plot/story. (That said, the best books are the ones that manage to get me attached to both the characters and their stories/worlds). So, I write with that in mind – I write characters who are people I’d actually want to have in my life. Or in the case of the ‘bad guys’, people who I definitely wouldn’t want to have in my life. There is nothing more beautiful to me than being able to get lost in a book only to finish it and wish that I was still a part of it and continuing on with the people in it. But it’s also a bittersweet feeling, because you never want to leave and return to the real world. You want to stay with them forever.
So, yeah. This was a super-easy question for me to answer because, as I said, I don’t develop my characters – they develop themselves. They just write themselves off the pages and into my heart. And I can only hope that they’ll do the same for my readers.
Thanks for your question, Jeremy. It was a fun one to answer for my first ever Me-Me-Me Monday.
If anyone else has a question they’d like me to have a crack at, feel free to comment below or send an email to: lynette [dot] noni [at] gmail [dot] com. As mentioned in a previous post, if you send a question to my email, make sure you include your blog address so that if I choose to answer your question I can link you into the post.
Also, this is random, but if you’re on Facebook, I’d love it if you would ‘like’ my ‘author’ page. I keep getting these FB notifications that say stuff like, “Only [insert number] more followers until you unlock a new level!” – and my curiosity is such that I want to know what ‘level’ I can unlock – but I need more followers for that to happen. I don’t spam FB so I won’t clog up your newsfeed (and, hey, you can always ‘unlike’ me later! I’ll never know!). Thanks heaps in advance for if you choose to add me – and if I get to a point where I can unlock stuff, I’ll make sure to blog about it! (If it’s exciting and not a total FB sham). You can ‘like’ me here: Lynette Noni Facebook.
Otherwise, you’ll hear from me again for ‘Writerly Wednesday’, where I’m planning on discussing rejection. Woohoo!