April 09, 2012

Who's to Say Characters aren't Real?

Most evenings these days my creative director husband and I have book-related conversations. Topics like, Why do I feel Like a Loser, What Should I Do Next, and the like are common. But last night we took a step away from all of that and just had some fun with it -- and now, my heroine in THE SIGHT, Katie Cranford, has her very own twitter (@katiecranford) and email!

Is it a jinx to believe that one day gaggles of girls will follow Katie? Is it egotistical to contemplate what she'd have to say, or how far to develop her persona?  These thoughts have crossed my mind, but for now it's just plain fun to bring her to life. What her future holds remains to be seen.

I've read and loved books my entire life, but it wasn't until I started writing that I understood how very real characters are. As I write my new work in progress, a historical young adult novel set in Victorian times, I feel like I am peeking in on lives that existed long before my book idea.

As I write dialogue, sometimes I try to make a character say something they would not. It's pretty obvious when I do it. And for the life of me, I cannot leave the words on the page. It's as though my character is yelling at me, "I wouldn't say that, Melanie!" And I have to listen.

At the beginning of a project, I tend to write little(or not so little) bios for each of the main characters. Certain ages, traits, and even physical characteristics, seem imperative to each character. I write little notes about things that happened to them growing up--things that will never be in the book. But it makes them real . . . and who's to say, if I searched high an low through every public record available, that they would not turn out to be real? Who's to say they don't exist, somewhere, on some alternate plane, or even right smack in the middle of the white pages(I'm dating myself, I know).

As I write, I allow myself every indulgence when it comes to my characters. That way, when times are rough for me, they can carry the burden a while. Are your characters real, too?


  1. I write character outlines as well! It makes the characters real and it helps me flesh out the back-story. During those early morning sessions, before the family's up, I'm head-bobbing to my iPod and coming up with the reasons why Jamie-Sue got married to Bobby-Joe when they were just fifteen. Then I find out about the pregnancy and how the baby turned out to be a mutant, spawn-child of some alien from race from the planet Ribbitian! :)

    Yes, this is what happens when I have way too much time on my hands!

  2. LOL! I love that, spawn-child! I have yet to find that future in one of my characters -- they're more likely to end up blackmailed by a bad guy and rushing to discover the secret of electro-magnetism to defeat him! I love nerdy heroes.

  3. My characters are ABSOLUTELY real--so much so that I actually start feeling bad for them when I'M the one causing them pain. :(


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