Wednesday, January 12, 2011


            Perhaps the most valuable asset a writer has is his or her characters.  Unfortunately, many are misused, abandoned, overused, or not used to their full potential.
            One of the things I was taught in my college writing classes—something I still to this day disagree with fiercelyis the idea that you can (and should) control everything about each character.  The writer calls the shots.  We were pushed to throw characters together and force them into situations to see how they would react.  This leads to resentment and many times characters refuse to speak to you.
            This is one of those views on writing that makes a lot of people think I’m insane.  I don’t believe in forcing characters to do things.  Each is like a real person—they all have their ticks, their passions, and their own stories.  Depending on how I approach them, they will or won’t tell me.  I have to establish relationships with them like they were real people.  I have to respect them.  And I have to care for them.  The resultant stories are far stronger and richer, far more real, than anything I could force them into.
            Some are easy to talk to, like the characters Danel, Corinth, and Roth in Brink.  Others…getting information from them is akin to pulling teeth, like Kett; he’ll share, but only when he’s in the mood.  Some need no encouragement at all to tell me their most painful secrets.  One such is Nayisa Sandtwister-Dray, Kett’s daughter.  She is matter-of-fact about her past.  Others need the right ambiance—such as when I listen to the right kind of music or look at the right kind of artwork.  This is the case for several of my Dragonsword Saga characters: former-demon-possessed Andur, his commander Mirinia Dragon-Child, and Mirinia’s Bonded, Avalan of the Jemspur.  Some tell me only the bare minimum at a time.  Then there are others who share even their most private moments.  One or two couples have been…um…quite romantical, to my embarrassment.  This is one of the reasons I believe characters can’t be controlled entirely.
            As with real people, there are characters I dearly love, and others I can’t stand a bit.  I hate seeing my favorites suffer or die, and often argue with them trying to convince them there has to be another way their story could turn out.  But my characters are always right.  Their stories are theirs, not mine.

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