CREATING CHARACTERS WHO BREATHE
by Robin Lee Hatcher
I love discovering the inner workings of my characters. I love it when they come to life and begin telling me their stories. I love it when they become my companions and my friends.
Writers often fall into two camps: those who develop their stories around plots and those who develop their stories around characters. But remember, a strong plot without living, breathing, believable characters cannot succeed, no matter how brilliant it is. If readers don't care about the people in your stories, they're not going to care what happens to them (i.e. your plot). Fall in love with your characters. Find out what makes them tick. Then they can tell you their story. After all, your characters are the ones living it, not you.
My favorite way to discover who my characters are is to use what is called “stream of consciousness writing.” I write a first person autobiography of the characters, starting from their birth and writing right up to the time the story begins. I let my imagination take over and write whatever pops into my head, things like, “When I was five, I tried to fly off the roof of the garage while pretending to be Superman. I broke my arm in two places.” I believe most writer's block occurs because a writer doesn't yet know her character's "character."
Every strong personality trait in one of your characters must have a reason, something in his past (whether distant or not) that provides the force moving him in that direction. If you're forcing a character to do something because your plot won't work without it, then you're in trouble. Forget about your reason for your hero to do it. What's his reason?
to her it's worth whatever it costs.
Don't short change your secondary characters. Remember that, as far as they're concerned, they are the center of the story and your hero and heroine are merely minor characters. Secondary characters' motivations and actions must ring as true as your central characters. Each secondary character should be so real to you that, if you chose, you could write a story about them.
Take the time to develop and understand your characters. If you do, they will never fail you. Your readers will see them as real people living real lives, and they will love you for it.
Robin will give away a copy of her book Heart of Gold. The hero and heroine from that book make a cameo appearance in her novella in A Bride for All Seasons.
Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher (author of 70 books) is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She discovered her vocation after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. Winner of the Christy, the RITA, the Carol, the Inspirational Reader’s Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Holt, the National Readers Choice, among other awards, Robin is also a recipient of the prestigious RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Her 2012 releases are currently finalists for the RITA Award (Betrayal), the National Readers Choice Award (Heart of Gold), and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award (Heart of Gold).