This week at writing group, we had a record number of people show up. It was amazing since we are only recently back up and running (and brand new for me because I just moved). That many people in the room means our pre-writing social time has some amazing perspectives and new ideas.
We got talking about various topics, as always, discussing the different ways people plot, if they plot, and how their writing is going. As our conversation drifted toward character development, we discussed how our own personalities are a culmination of the five people we are around the most. It’s the social proximity effect — we pick up the habits of those we are around the most.
That, of course, bleeds into our writing. Some people laughed at characters they have named in their story and their human counterparts in the real world. Some talked about the mashup of different people they used to create the personality, and name, of a character. That later transitioned to how people develop their characters within the story, as in, the story creates the characters or the characters create the story.
The more I thought about my previous writings, the more I realized how foundational characters are in my stories. Every story I’ve written (three complete books, two incomplete, one in progress for NaNo) has started with a character. As the character builds in my head, before I’ve even started writing, the story around them starts to grow.
I’ve always believed that characters make a story. You can have a fantastic tale of adventure or romance or fantasy or whatever else you might write, but if you send the wrong character through the plot, you’ve missed a huge opportunity. I don’t often start books without finishing, but this can deter me from reading.
I’ve also always believed that if you don’t truly love what you’re writing, it’s going to show. There have been wonderful books written, well researched, well developed, and with truly amazing characters, but when the writing isn’t passionate — I don’t even care if it is written poorly or perfectly— when the writing doesn’t show that connection, it can be heartbreaking. I’ve walked away from books like this too.
Because I have the freedom to create whatever I want, I started with characters before I created the story. I had conversations with them in my head. I asked questions of them. I observed their mannerisms. I became best friends with them. I fell in love with them.
When you fall in love with your characters, your emotion bleeds into your writing. When you write them through exciting moments, you get excited with them. If you send them through hell, you feel their emotions. I have to be careful writing in public because my face mimics their facial expression or the emotion of the scene.
I don’t think you have to be the most talented writer in the world to write a good book. I do believe that you should love what you write. It’s not always easy, but if you can learn to fall in love with your characters, you’ll show up for them. You’ll want to show up for them. That’s how you create a story people want to read. Love your characters, the good and bad, and your writing will thank you.
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