“How much of you resides within your characters?”
This was an interesting question recently ran by me, and I thought I’d not only share my answer but also elaborate a bit upon it.
Like most authors, I put a lot of myself into my characters. Writing isn’t just about entertaining–it’s also about clearing the cobwebs and making sense of the world that I live in. I may create a strange world or extraordinary circumstances into which to stick a character, but my central interest is in what strength this character will draw from in order to dig him- or herself out and overcome the conflict… or will he or she be consumed?
To fall back, the deepest well I have to draw from is within. What would I do? Why?
I can answer this more accurately if I give the character some of my own traits–and indeed, I may be providing buried insight into overcoming an issue within my own life.
In Through the Eyes of Outcasts, Scott Ingram is in desperate need of development. He has dug himself into a rut where he allows himself to be self-arrested on all fronts. He’s created a comfort zone, only to discover that zone isn’t so comfortable after all. Scott wants to belong to something. He wants to matter. He wants love, and to be loved. Who among you hasn’t found yourself in a situation that fits this description? If you can answer that you never have, I’d sincerely like to meet you because I know I’ll never meet your like again. That said, there’s plenty of life experiences to draw from. There’s a lot of common mental ground to write into such a character.
Sarah Bollinger starts off sounding very much like the logical voice of reason (which I probably don’t listen to as often as I should) inside my own head. Harsh and disappointed at times… but always honest with her opinions. Vulnerable as most of us are, but also strong in many areas–again, just as most of us are. This is why she only exists within Ingram’s thoughts in the first book. She’s my voice, she speaks in the cadence of my own internal dialog… and she’s a leading character for the rest of this series. She’s very much me. Even when I develop her identity and give her a personality not necessarily matching my own, I’m the cement in her foundation.
Douglass Stevens is trapped in a situation he’d rather get out of, and all he wants to do is get the unpleasantness over with so that he can move ahead with his life under his own terms. (Sound familiar? Again, if it doesn’t, we need to have a talk over coffee: I’m going to find you fascinating.) What would motivate me in his situation? How confused would I be, and how would I form plans? Those answers become his.
Anna is the version of me who knows that her logical voice is screaming against what her heart wants. She knows what she’s stepping into, she knows at least enough to be sure it’s a bad idea–but she also knows that she’s going to do what is in her heart and make sense of the details later either way.
Even antagonists such as Rob and Lance represent what I feel would happen if I let my worst impulses steal the ball and run off with it. We’ve all got that little devil inside. What if we gave him the wheel for awhile?
At the end of the day, it is fiction–and those are fictional characters. But in their cores, they are alive and breathing, and thanking you for reading this entry.