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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Clearly Defined Characters

I had a kind reader ask me tonight how I clearly define characters, including how I add new characters. Well, having clearly defined characters is like keeping track of any other detailed aspect of a story, but it is also hugely important! (I strongly believe in character-driven stories.) As I have told my creative writing students in the past, you must know your characters better than anyone else. When I was first writing notes for The Gateway Chronicles, of course I had a general outline of a storyline, but where I really started was with my characters. I named all the main characters and began writing mini-bios of each of them, including things such as likes and dislikes, but also mundane details such as birthdays, hometowns, number of siblings, etc... Many of these facts will never be shared with the reader, but the make the characters more real in my mind, and therefore helps them to come across as more real on the paper. Now, that being said, I don't believe in being so thorough that your characters have no chance to evolve with the story. For example, when I first conceived Tellius (crown-prince of Alitheia, for those of you who haven't read my stories yet), I wanted him to be a little impish and silly, and I wanted his dynamic change in the story to be learning how to take life seriously as he got older. Well, I started to write, and I realized that, with the way the story was coming together and with the history that I had written for his family, that personality didn't make any sense for him. So, Tellius came together more as a result of how the story was turning out than anything else. Darcy, on the other hand, is exactly how I conceived her in my notes. Adding characters, whether from the beginning of a story or mid-stream, usually starts with a name though. I think that names are just hugely important, and they should be reflective of a character's personality/identity. (I actually feel the same way about name my children!) In that, most of my character's names have very specific meanings, and a few are word plays (which always makes me feel clever... and a little pretentious too, aparently! lol). Anyhow, I'd be happy to answer any specific questions along these lines from my stories, but I told myself that I would keep this post under essay length, so that's all for now! Good night!

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