Characterization Through Discovery

One thing that stays consistent about my writing, no matter which genre or style I attempt, is that the characters are rarely created. They don’t leap full form from my head, miniature Athenas, constructed perfectly and as I want them to be.

No.

Instead, they exist, dare I say, completely, but I need to discover them. Their quirks, personalities, everything, I can’t really form it. I can only write, slip them into situations and see what happens. Amazingly, most of them succeed in this way. It isn’t just that one of my characters loves to cook; he makes risotto when stressed.

Most times, when I attempt to force characters, they rebel. One of them, a surgeon named Pryce who I came up with for some fantasy Victorian short stories, was supposed to be a real backstabber. He decided that he wasn’t, rather, he was a real sweetheart. And I came up with his counterpart, my version of HG Wells’ Griffin, the Invisible Man, who, despite his invisibility, allows his vanity to reign. Did I know that about either of them when I started writing? No, but I do now.

Writing these characters is discovery. I have to coax these details out them. Some have full fledged opinions that they spit and spew without a second thought. Others are quiet. All are enigmatic. Imagine my surprise when I realized that one character whom I thought was a confirmed bachelor was actually happily married with two daughters. It’s integral to his character.

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3 thoughts on “Characterization Through Discovery

  1. Yeah, I had some of my own characters rebel. Tried to have one act very childish, but she refused. Another was going to play the domineering mother, but her arguments and concerns were to valid to ignore.

    And so it goes….

    1. Mine seem content with rebelling. It’s making the structure of one short story quite difficult.

      Characters, try as we may, we just can’t get them to behave.

      1. Mine not only rebel, they go on strike. Most of my episodes of writer’s block come from a character saying, “I ain’t doing that, Mister!”

        And guess what, they are usually right.

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