The Characters in Your Story

Welcome back to Motivational Monday!  How’s your writing going?

Mike Foley, a writer friend of mine, and author of The Writer’s Edge, posted about characters from your book “speaking” to you.  He said that it sounded weird to some people, but I say, if your characters aren’t “real” to you, how can they be real to your readers?

William Faulkner, among others, said he puts his characters in a situation and follows behind them, taking notes.  That’s how I write as well.  But how can you do that if your characters aren’t real to you?  You can’t.

You have to know your major characters as well as you know your own family.  That doesn’t mean you have to do twelve-page bios on them, but you do have to be able to get inside their heads.  What would they do in this situation, or that situation?  What are they afraid of?  What do they love?

I find, if I get stalled in a story, it’s usually because I’m asking my characters to do something they wouldn’t think of doing–as in, it goes against their grain.  I’ve told you how I ask the characters what they’d do next, before I fall asleep at night.  I’d say 95% of the time, I wake up with the answer.

So really get to know your characters, before you write a word of their story…and it is their story, you know, not yours.  Do you doubt that?  When you re-read your book, after it’s done, do you sometimes wonder “Who wrote that?”  Well, the answer is, the character did.  Yes, they live inside your head, but they are not you.

I know some writers sweat and slave over knowing every single scene, before they write, but I say know your characters and let them write the book for you.  It’s a whole lot more fun than doing it the other way around!

Ask yourself who does your reader connect with–the characters, of course.  One of my favorite comments on Amazon is when someone says they wish these people were their friends.  Then I know I’ve done my job–or rather, the characters have done theirs.

Happy Reading and Writing and Getting to Know Your Characters,


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