My friend Elana Johnson is doing a blogging experiment, wherein a whole bunch of writing bloggers, or blogging writers, or, well, you know—we all get together and blog on one topic on a specific day. Last time I did one of these activities, it was a BLAST. So be sure to check out Elana’s blog for the master list of participants.
I’ve been a reader my whole life. Really. Well, okay, there were a few years when my kids were small when I didn’t allow myself much reading time. But it didn’t last long. And believe me when I say, I’ve more than made up for lost time with the books I’ve read since I started writing.
Because equally as much as I love to write, I LOVE to read. But why? Why do I feel so compelled to spend oodles of time living in a fictional world with people who don’t really exist except in my imagination? Because I love the characters, that’s why.
But how—and more, why—would I love people who don’t really exist? How or why would anyone? Because if the author did his or her job, the characters in their books become real for the readers. Real, live people you could almost reach out and touch. And we—the readers—feel like we know these characters inside and out. Intimately. So, it’s like our favorite characters are a long, lost friend.
I don’t have all the answers by any means, but I believe this is accomplished only when an author truly believes these characters are real. Knows them intimately, their likes and dislikes, their favorite colors, their favorite foods, their backgrounds and history, what they’re like inside and why, and especially their flaws. The things they like about themselves, and those they don’t. When an author writes a story—any story—about a character they know THAT well, the knowledge comes out on each page of the story.
Sometimes we don’t know our characters that well until after the story is drafted, and that’s okay. That’s a perfectly acceptable way to get to know your characters, and then those little details will—hopefully—come through in your revision.
For me, the characters that are real are also the most compelling. And compelling characters make good stories we all love to read. Right? Right. Okay.
Be sure to check the master list on Elana’s blog to read more about writing compelling characters.