Before I start ruminating on the unique flaws of characters, I have a confession to make. I was without Internet for a whole four days and missed the Seeker Sightings deadline for Seekerville Weekend Edition. Bad me. So I apologize for this random mention of Casey Herringshaw’s 2nd Blogiversary Party, but, I’m part of the party today along with Seeker friends Lisa Jordan and Jessica Nelson!! After your fill of snacks and chit chat here in Seekerville, mozy on over there and say hi!
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.
As a writer of romantic fiction, my imagination creates worlds I secretly wish I could participate in, even if it’s just as a sideline spectator. I’d much rather watch from a distance and stand in awe at how characters work themselves out of situations I’d rather just step away from.
But we can’t do that and expect to write a book filled with laughter, tears, conflict and resolution, can we? Bummer, isn’t it? So often I wish the psychological makeup of my characters would just roll off my fingertips as I type their POV scene. Or respond with clever, witty retorts that I only think of days later if posed with the same situation.
All I know how to be is me. I don’t even understand my own children and I believe I had a small part in creating them, LOL! How am I supposed to create and breathe life into fictional people who can do, say and live the experiences I only wish I could?
I must confess people are a mystery to me. Why do folks gravitate for the hustle and bustle of large cities while others yearn for wide, open spaces? Why would television commercials artfully mislead the buyer into purchasing their product when, upon receipt, the true quality and capabilities will be revealed? Why does one man spend his life amassing a great monetary fortune while another prizes limitless literary wisdom?
Why did the cellular phone representative paint a lovely picture of the utopia I’d experience using their service over my current provider and then offer me nothing more than the offhanded “oops” when I brought to his attention my cell phone is practically DEAD at our house?
Honestly, how do some people sleep at night?
And why do we long to mix this dichotomy of personalities into our books when we haven’t a clue what makes them tick?
Sometimes you have to work at your craft YEARS before the answers to some of your most pressing questions slip into your consciousness.
For me, I needed to go back to Characters 101 to discover the reason my plots - though well thought out in theory - became contrived once I set my characters on the scene. Contrived? What an ugly word. Still, you can’t ignore reality if enough people remark on it. How can I un-contrive my stories when I have a tendency to guide my characters through the motions, finding solutions to their problems the way my own nature tends to solve issues?
I began to research personality types. And in that research I stumbled onto the basic universal truth – characters without problems have no reason to learn, grow and change.
Ewwww. I hate problems. I hate conflict.
In my distaste for the essence of conflict, I started looking for a research book to guide me through the rabbit warren that is human nature. Something to help me understand and support characters so opposite my own nature. Something that explained to me why people did the things they did.
I found it. Believable Characters: Creating With Enneagrams by Laurie Schnebly.
Using the basic personality concept I had created for my characters, I found it easy to identify which personality types they were. For the most part, I had my hero’s nature nailed, for all the good and noble aspects. What I needed, but couldn’t see, were the obstacles he had to overcome. C'mon, my hero is perfect, right?
Enter: The Fatal Flaws
Along your character’s journey, they not only have to reach Happily Ever After, but ideally, they reach it a better character than page 1 of the book. I have to admit, this was a key element I was leaving out. Sure my characters changed and grew, but not along any specific route. Identifying the Fatal Flaw in my character’s personality has not only helped me understand other facets of my character, but it helps me to help them overcome obstacles strewn in their path through their own eyes, utilizing every nerve ending that jumps to attention when anxiety/joy/fear/etc buttons are pushed.
My characters are now acting/reacting as THEY should – not as I would or the plot dictates.
I’m feeling rather giddy with the power of knowledge. How about you?
Knowing my character down to the essence in their little toes, I’m finding it quite impossible to write my characters into a corner. I still map out a general plot, but as Cap’n Jack’s wily pirate cohorts would say, the plot map is more like a guideline. How hero and heroine get from point A to Z is completely up to them…with a minute manipulating from me : ) Like any child, your characters need boundaries, what they don’t need are loading chutes.
Give them the majestic mountains of Colorado to explore, or the social chasms of historical peasants vs. nobility to hurdle, or even something as simple as deciding which dress and jewelry will make the right statement. That statement is theirs to make, you just take dictation.
I could go on and on about the doors…nay, floodgates…of inspiration this little book has opened for me. I’d like to make it a part of your reference library, too. If you think it might help you, leave a comment and mention you’d like to be in the drawing.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Don’t forget to stop by Casey’s Blogiversary Party and say hi to Jessica, Lisa and me, too!!
Stop by the buffet and help yourself to all dishes apple. You'll find Apple Crisp, Apple Pie, Apple Pizze with almonds and raisins, fruit compote and my favorite, steel cut oatmeal with chunky apples and walnuts on the side. Of course I've got URNS of coffee ready and your choice of Honey Apple tea or Spicy Apple Cider.