Hosted by: Cynthia Swanson & Andrew Swanson

How Real Do Characters Get?

I saw a quote tonight that resonated with me:

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ~E. L. Doctorow

When the characters I’m writing about become real, my mind becomes full of their conversations and arguments.  Each voice is distinct, with its own personality and resonance.  I suggest a plot scenario and they take off, jumping right into the conversation as if it had only be on pause.

Because each character has their own history and point of view, I have always felt that when I write from their point of view, it needs to have a flavor of who they are.  On the whole, I think I’ve accomplished that.

Here are glimpses of what I mean:

After this morning, how could she bear to listen to the story they came up with to explain why her dad was moving out?  Didn’t they realize how selfish they were being?  Sure, her mom was usually okay to deal with, but she didn’t want to live in a single parent home.  Whatever problem her mom had, she needed to work it out and get over it.
MacKennas don’t get divorced.  Period.

Well, except for Uncle Neil.  But he was a special case because he’s like a science genius or something.  Who could live with someone who talked about science all day and night?

Metals, he understood.  Wood called to him.  Molten silver and bronze did his creative bidding, bringing him to joy as each new piece took shape from the visions in his head.  He let them speak for him.  He fed his passion into them, talking to them, giving them life, and they repaid him by forming the shapes of his dreams for all to see.

If only people were as easy to mold and shape to his liking.  Maybe then he wouldn’t hate these artist openings so greatly.

Accepting a glass of blood red wine from a server, he sipped and let his gaze wander.   Among the over-privileged patrons he spotted the homeless ones they invited in for a free meal and a night without care.  It gave him perverse pleasure to see them.   Not because he was helping them—it cost little enough and the bit of philanthropy served their purposes well—but because it brought new blood into the club.  That was always a good thing.

As he drank again from his glass, his gaze snagged on a pair standing by the sunken dance floor.  A smile tilted his full lips.  The supplicant had followed instructions and brought a fresh innocent to the club.

Hopefully you spotted the differences.  Teenage girl.  Artist.  Superior man.  In each case, as I wrote the scene I listened to the voice of the character buzzing in my head, and how their personality colored their perception of the world around them.

Is this the ideal way to write a scene?  That’s not for me to say.  All I know is this works for me, so I decided to share it.

Plus, I really did like the quote.

Happy writing.

Categories: Writing


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