Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Getting to Know Your Characters

How do you know your characters? Do you think them out in your head before starting to write? Do you do a character profile, or a character analysis? Many writers do one or the other, and some do all of them.

That's all well and good, but what happens to these profiles and analyses when the characters take their lives into their own hands and decide to do or say something entirely out of character for them? I have many writer friends who often bemoan the fact that here they are, way past the middle of their story, and one or another of their characters are taking that story in an entirely different direction. My daughter, who writes for adults, says that in one of her mystery stories the villain popped up at very near to the end, and was someone she had not even thought of as being the murderer. That can make things very interesting! And very difficult to resolve in a timely and logical manner.

One of the things I've learned about characters is that they are most often far more complex than what I thought when I was developing them. After all, they come from my imagination, right? True, but that doesn't mean they are going to stay true to form...my form, that is. So how do I...and we...deal with those who decide to be independent and go their own way? Well, I have them sit down and write ME a letter, telling me all about themselves, what they want, how they plan to get it, and what they want ME to do with them. Sometimes those letters are short, sometimes they are 4 and 5 pages long, as was the case with my WIP's main character.

Below is an exerpt from one of the major antagonists in my paranormal novel. He wrote to me to explain why he was half human and half gargoyle. And why he might not be who I thought he was. The **** indicates other pasages I'm not quoting. See what you think.


My Mama and Papa were married very young, and according to Cajun traditions. Mama was very beautiful and many Young Bloods were after her, but the marriage was arranged by both parents. She was not happy and finally, she slipped away to New Orleans. There she met an older man who enticed her into an affair. She became pregnant, and this man wanted her to marry him. She refused and fled back to her husband, had me, and they both pretended everything was fine.

 But, you see, nothing was fine. The man who impregnated my mother was only half human. His other half was a warlock. He was so angry he wanted to place a spell on my mother, but the warlocks of his coven refused to allow him. When I was born, his son, his hatred transferred to me, and he demanded to be allowed to put a spell on me. The warlocks told him he could do so, but with two demands: one, I couldn’t be made a warlock, and two, since this man was so angry, he would lose his life if he put any kind of spell on me. He hated me and my mama so much he was willing to die in order to put a spell on me. At the age of ten, I would become half human and half gargoyle. He put this spell on me, and died within minutes after.
You see, I don’t know if I am evil or good. One of the gargoyles has more power over me than the others, and she…yes, there are female gargoyles…is a bad one. No matter how hard I resist, if she tells me to do something, I have no choice but to do it. There are times when I do something she has told me to do, and I know it is wrong but I have to do it, anyway. There are other times when she tells me something, and I don’t remember doing it. But I know I did.
Now, when I help Gabriela find the killer, I will be helping myself by proving it wasn’t me.
 There is only one problem. I may be the killer.
He was not who I had thought him out to be, nor did he fit the profile I had made of him. I was totally surprised by this letter. Perhaps, if your characters wrote letters to you, you would also be surprised by what you find out about them. Anyway, it's an interesting, fun, and for me, informative way to find out who your characters really are.
Until next time,
That's a wrap.