It usually sounds like I’m delusional when I say this, but…my characters believe they not only are alive, but that I owe them a life. I’ve even had one of them go shopping with me..
The first person to suggest I was a writer explained that I had to be one because I could hear characters. Not all writers do. I think I hear them because I have a different way of imagining things than those who do not hear their characters. It doesn’t matter to writing.
Developing and presenting a character takes all the senses. It’s not just what they do and say, it’s how they are perceived. Getting that right on paper is not easy as a film or illustration. I have to give you what they see around them, and how they perceive the situation. Also, what others percieve them to be. That means I’m using words to give you a visual. Sort of like describing the color yellow.
Okay, not that abstract, but you get the picture.
I do have the advantage of knowing the character’s self-perception, and what they think and feel about the situation. That gives you a picture of the character far better than a photograph would.
In thinking about my character as a person, I got to thinking about the women in my family. Ranging from pioneers from the Old World to the New World, rulers who were beloved, commoners with pluck enough to capture the heart of a royal, those who walked out of their country keeping their family together even with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and (way back) the women who were badass enough to defeat the marauders who took advantage of the men of their village being away on a raid. More recently, those that kept house and home together during a Pandemic (1918), the Great Depression and World War II, forming unions and fighting for the jobs and better lives of others.
Mom had an idea of me being some sort of model little girl, though she’d given that up when I hit my teens, I think. I was handed down rules–rules I learned later not every woman in my family followed. Decorum was for other people. You make a move to survive and take your family with you.
Stories of surviving something are important to me. I think all of us have our own trial by fire to walk through, and there’s certainly more than one in my own life–two break ups with significant others, overcoming my own demons, trying to figure out all of what I was in comparison of what I “ought to be” according to my folks.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, “Well behaved women seldom make history.”
And what a boring heroine a well behaved woman would make! I want flaws, gripes, annoyances, overreacting, throwing caution to the wind. If everything is “just so” it’s antiseptic and leaves no room for the important things–like growth.
So while I’m writing, I’m focusing on my characters growing, reaching deep inside and finding the moments I grew–all painful in their own way–and finding where my characters grow into heroes or villians.
Spellbinder was the start for Britta and Bodhi. They must go beyond what they were to get to the other side of this follow up I’m writing. They have to be ready for the third book and all that they’ll have to deal with.
Through it all, they will experience life. And breaking the rules.