This past week was mostly spent working on behind the scenes stuff for Soul Bearer. I’ve been reaching out to ARC readers left and right. I got a bit of editing done for the rerelease of The Gem of Meruna.
I also finished the pre-beta reader edits of Salt and Silver, and got it sent out to them. They found a few things that need adjusted, and I’m glad they caught it. Their response was overwhelmingly positive though, and I’m so freaking excited about it!
It’s a great feeling to know someone enjoyed your work.
And that story was so much fun to write. The characters are…interesting (a demi-demon with a conscience, a werewolf with a hero complex, a reckless mortal). lol.
Which brings me to the topic of the day…
So, there are a lot of types of writers, and a lot of standpoints on how autonomous our characters actually are. Some people believe their characters have minds of their own, and have a lot of control on how the story develops. Some people believe all the control rests within the hands of the author.
And to be honest, as far as my next point is concerned…which side of that fence you’re on doesn’t matter.
Because, whether you think they’re forcing your hand or not, you need to think of them as fully independent people.
Whether you’re plotting carefully or running wildly through pages, the characters have to be people to you. Because if you don’t see your character as a person, your reader won’t, either.
You need to see all the facets of their personality. Otherwise, how will you ever figure out how they’ll react in a given situation?
If they’re a full person to you, it’s easier to figure out what they’ll do.
They can’t just be heroic because you say they are. Fiction has to make sense, ironically enough. Your characters have to have a motive.
Which is where backstory comes in.
Now, getting a normal ass person to leave a life with which they’re content to go chasing danger is going to take some persuasion. A person who has reason to hate their current situation…will go more readily.
Which is why backstories get rough.
But no matter what the backstory, you need to be consistent. If they have a history of running their mouth, they’re not going to stop whenever its convenient for the writer for them to not spout off at a superior or an uneasy ally.
It’ll take work for them to control that impulse, if they even see it as a problem. If they don’t, they won’t bother adjusting their attitude. And you either have to find a different way to move your plot forward or curb their temper in earlier scenes.
Because people change, but not instantly, and not when it’s most convenient.
Oftentimes, change is brought about by a low point. (Terrible backstory…reason 2.)
Now, there are a lot of ways to see your characters as real people.
Some writers do personality tests as each character. Some give each character a quirk, or a phrase that they use a lot. It makes them just a bit more distinct, a bit more human.
Whatever you do, each character needs a voice. You don’t want your reader to struggle to tell one side character from another. You definitely don’t want that struggle with your main characters.
The most basic thing you can do is figure out what they want. They’re not always going to want the same thing as your other characters, so there’s a pretty easy distinction.
Then, figure out why they want that thing.
This kinda brings us back to their backstory. What we go through has a huge impact on what we want out of life. And we tend to think about things we want…a lot.
Which means that a character’s thoughts (an important tool in character voice) will be informed by their past.
If someone went through something terrible…they’re going to think about it. If they want to prevent that happening to someone else, they’re going to think about that.
If one character is in love with another, and they’re going along on a quest to try to win affection…they’re not going to spend as much time thinking about the quest as the person on it for a personal vendetta. Instead, they’ll be preoccupied with how their crush is doing and how safe they are and what needs done to win them over.
That right there, the thing they focus on in the safety of their own mind…
That’s a huge distinction.
Take the backstory you’ve provided, and pick something (preferably plot-related) that makes your character anxious. That’s another huge difference between characters. Or maybe it’s something two characters can bond over.
Does your character have low self-esteem? Maybe that makes them befriend people who possess qualities they envy, because they want to be like them.
Maybe it does the opposite.
Perhaps they can’t handle being surrounded by the quality they admire, and they tell themselves that quality is dumb to ease the tension of not being good enough. Maybe they end up hating the person they know they should emulate, as a defense mechanism, surrounding themselves instead with like-minded people to avoid any cognitive dissonance.
There are so many options, so many ways to build messed up people for your stories.
At the end of the day, the best recommendation I can give is to learn about psychology. You don’t have to get a degree. You don’t have to be an expert.
But learning about psychology has so many benefits for writers.
You can use it to build people.
Believable people that readers can relate to.
And that’s huge.
It’s…kinda…the point. Or, a major part of it, anyway.
But I digress. I’ll stop ranting, now.
Keep reading. Keep writing.