Friday, 4 December 2009

The characters we meet

Recently, a writing friend pondered some of writing's big questions—how do we build our characters and how much of the character is drawn from ourselves. The very first novel wrote was a terrible, terrible, terrible, YA novel. Did I mention it was terrible? But, I loved my characters, mainly because they were composites of me, my experiences, people I know, people I’d like to know, people I didn’t want to know. They had all the traits I didn’t have and wanted, and none of the one I did have, and didn’t want. I would see them as I walked down the street. I imagined them in familiar locale settings. I invented lives for them I couldn’t live. I gave them power I didn’t have. For characters to be informed by our own experiences and observations seems to be an accepted method. We start with what we know. In that process, we discover what we don’t know, and what we need to find out. How does a character behave in certain situations, what would she/he do when scared, frightened or elated? Since my first forays into writing, my characters have become more realistic, more complex and more interesting. Part of their development comes from my own. As I get older and wiser (hopefully), the choice of reactions, responses, idiosyncrasies and physical features that are imparted to the characters I write is drawn from a wider pool of experiences and observations. On the page, they can be anything, anyone, including the best and worst of ourselves.