Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Writing: Creating your Elizabeth Bennett, an award, and an apology

Characters vs. Real People - And why I prefer to read about those in my head...
1) Characters are honest. People lie. No real person will tell another that he stinks ... not if he wants friends anyway. However, because we can enter a character's head, we know what they're thinking even if it's not politically correct. Even if a character may not be aware of his own feelings, we know what's on his mind. That's why characters often stick in our heads more than real people. Do we really get to know humans?

2) Characters lead exciting lives. People are, for the most part, boring. People spend most of their lives doing boring, mundane things - such as showering, picking up dog poo, sleeping, eating, and hating their in-laws. Good writers prevent their characters from doing these mundane things in books. They live in a world of relationships and emotions... even when their picking their noses they are exploring the meaning of life.
3) Characters are not burdened with diversions from the plot. Humans live a life that often have no plot whatsoever. Characters don't have to live through a weekly grocery or school run or don't have to balance their checkbooks. Humans die at an arbitrary point with many unresolved issues. Characters end their story at significant points and often their stories are resolved.
Basically, characters get to skip over all the boring bits. Because characters are often the most exciting personages we know, readers want to believe they are real.

How can we make our characters more real?

1. Know yourself to know your character.
Shallow people can only make shallow characters. Because (as we ascertained above) people lie, the only person who will honestly express their feelings with us is - our self. There is no good writing without self examination and brutal honesty. We can find within ourselves the different aspects of life and feelings to construct our characters with. We can even write about what we don't know because somewhere in our world we can link it to knowledge of ourselves.

2. Let your characters develop on their own.
Don't force them. Characters, like humans, will open themselves up to you over time. They will become more and more real to you and you can then show them to the reader.

What do you think? Have your characters started to express themselves over time? Did you find out new things about them as time progressed?

Talli Roland, also a coffee lover, gave me the Sugar Doll award. (Pictured above) Thank you so much! You should check out her blog... here's why: 1) She's from London 2) She drinks coffee 3) And, oh, she has an awesome blog about writing and a few days ago she wrote about how to play your blog...

Now, I'm suppose to give this award away... here's my picks: (I chose those without the award and those with fewer followers - go check out their hard work!)

1) Wandeca at Wandeca Reads - she's a fellow Canadian
2) Marce at Tea Time with Marce - she loves Earl Grey Tea...also my favorite tea.
3) My pal from India, Rayna at Coffee Rings Everywhere
4) Elspeth at It's a Mystery
5) All my fellow writers at Journey in Ink
6) Anne Rooney at Stroppy Author's guide to publishing - She has written hundreds of books.
7) Margot at Confessions of A Mystery Novelist

Also, I want to take a moment to apologize to my characters... you know who you are. I can feel you tapping on my shoulder and whispering in my ear to keep writing. I hear you. I've just been too busy to really listen. I know some of you have been sulking and not talking to me - which I have to say hasn't really been helping me. So I'm telling you this now - I'm here again, tell me your story. Talk to me.


Anonymous said...

Ann - First, thank you for the lovely award! I'm honored, and I truly appreciate it!!

You are so right about characters, too!!! The more real they are, the more readers get caught up in their stories. It starts, I think with authors getting caught up in their characters' stories, too. To do that, the character has to be real.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Well at least your characters aren't ignoring you--like mine!

Congrats on your award!!

Linda said...

I laughed so hard at this, I almost choked ;-) My BFF (and my greatest writing cheerleader) just asked me last night why all female characters have great hair that always does exactly what they want it to--she's asked me to write in a character with "baby-fine, stringy, can't do a thing with it" hair LOL

Congrats on your award and thanks for a super fun (yet very true) post!

Mason Canyon said...

Congratulations on the award and thanks for new links to check out.

Unknown said...

Congrats ont he award!!! Lovely!!!

Awe poor Kim, they'll come back to you!!! Silly characters like to disappear for a bit, playing dirty games on us!!

Ann Elle Altman said...

Margot, I like your blog and you deserve it.

Kimberley, I'm sorry your characters are ignoring you. Hopefully they will talk to you soon.

Linda, I'm glad you found my post so funny. It's true about the hair, isn't it.

Mason, I should have recommended your blog...I just couldn't go through them all.

Jen, thank you... and to all stuck in a rut. Hopefully you can get back to it soon.


Lorel Clayton said...

Great post! It's so true about the honesty in a fictional character--we rarely get to see all the sides (especially bad) of a real person. My favorite characters to write are villains because they can express all our jealous, petty or downright meglomaniacal thoughts without being penalized for it. How can you hate them too much? But heroes often turn out bland because we want the reader to like them, just as we as people want to be liked, so we tend to show only their good sides and tone down the bad to the point where they're not real or interesting anymore.

Anastasia V. Pergakis said...

This is a great post and totally true! I love your apology to your characters. I am making the same one now too. Hopefully I'll be able to actually get something written tonight! Hopefully they aren't too mad at me that they give me the silent treatment.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Lorel, I agree. I love writing villains also. But, at times I like to make my protagonists do things I regret.


J.L. Campbell said...

Thanks for the award!

Interesting post, I was reading an article in a Writer's Digest the other day that suggested writers compile some stuff from their characters' past to give them more depth.

Elspeth Futcher said...

Thanks so much for passing along the award - although I'm the WORST at passing these on myself.

I love each of my characters with all their faults. Bless them, they're only human. Some try harder than others, but I love them all.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Joy, I'm glad you liked it and thanks for the great comment.

Elspeth, I'm bad too. But I love reading your blog. I love my characters too.


Carol Kilgore said...

My characters develop over the course of writing the manuscript. I gain insight into them while writing the first draft. Each draft I know them better, until finally I know them well enough to type The End.

Congratulations on your award!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I usually do in depth character sketches for all my main characters, yet they still unfold and surprise me as I'm writing the story. Thanks for awarding Journeys in Ink.

Natasha said...

I was sure I commented, but I see not :-(

Thank you for the lovely award. Coming from someone I think is a Sugar doll herself, it means a lot.

And I don't know about shallow people creating shallow characters, but my characters are more alive than a lot of people I know (but many of the people one encounters are half dead anyway). There was this bit part guy who was supposed to be rude and stand-offish like Darcey, but ended up muscling his way into my WiP, and turning out to be the only man who could actually empathise with a heartbroken woman. And there was this other person who was supposed to play a central role, but who got so clingy and creepy, I wrote him out altogether after only one chapter.
Now show me people who do that?

Leya said...

Thank you Ann for the award. :D

Ann Elle Altman said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

And Rayna, what I meant by the shallow people creating shallow characters is that if you don't have depth, if you don't understand the deeper things about feelings and emotions, it's difficult write about them or create characters who feel them.