Where do characters come from? They don’t all jump out ready made, if they did there would likely be such similarity to them, they would be hard to distinguish one from the other – no, they evolve, every writer knows the process (even if it is not fully understandable), and this is the primary reason I love characters who go their own way and stand out – it’s their evolution happening fast.
This makes the journey an adventure for the writer as well as the reader. If a writer doesn’t have fun writing, they won’t write well or frequently. Often writer’s block will happen if a writer has spent too much time in one area, and staying in that place has become no longer fun.
Characterization is influenced by many things. As we have been talking about Va’el and Sevi, I will use them as examples.
Who the individual is counts. Va’el, for instance, wouldn’t be after a princely crown if he wasn’t the bastard son of a bastard son of an emperor. Take the “bastard” out of the equation, he would already have a crown, he would be prince by birthright. Take away the royal connection and a crown wouldn’t even be a consideration.
It’s the very fact that he’s caught between “should have” and “will never have” that he is so dissatisfied and determined to make his own fate. He knows what he wants. He’s so close to power and it might never be his.
That makes him insecure – and an obnoxious brat is what popped up when I introduced him, aged ten. It surprised me, but it fits, it makes him real.
Achieving recognition is crucial to Va’el. He might even make it – if he doesn’t push his luck and get knocked off first, that is.
What profession the individual is in counts. Sevi is an elite Khekarian soldier, dedicated to her task and eminently capable of taking care of business. It stands to reason that her training would make her cold-bloodedly efficient. She is a soldier first and foremost.
Sevi’s occupation defines her. It keeps her actions and reactions precise. She’s highly intelligent and always has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on around her. Which is precisely where Va’el can trip her up, because he’s all over the place, following his every whim. He doesn’t plan – therefore she can’t.
The circumstances characters are in counts. Va’el and Sevi tossed together into an adventure could generate a great clash between them due to their different personalities. Sevi doesn’t like the lack of control Va’el displays. Va’el doesn’t like Sevi by default, mainly because he knows she sees him and doesn’t like him, and partly because he knows what a KIAF soldier is capable of. She’s daunting. He’s further up in the hierarchy, though, so he thinks he ought to be able to control her and tell her what to do. Let’s put it politely: Not likely. Va’el is only ten, remember, and doesn’t even have control over himself, he’s certainly not going to be able to bully Sevi, who is not only capable of assassination but can set it up to look like Khekarian enemies did it.
The temptation is certainly there, it’s only Sevi’s professionalism that keeps her from following that whim. Control. That’s her strength, it’s just being severely tested.
These are just a few of the boundaries that keep a character from being anything else. There are plenty of others: What a character believes is important, what goals they have, what threats they perceive, love, lust, temperament, humor, stamina and perseverance, and no doubt many, many more.
The challenge in writing is sitting down and doing the work, getting it done, researching, editing, polishing, reading it through (again and again and again). The fun in writing is messing about with the characters you create and discovering which boundary line shapes them and why, and what challenges come out of that for them. Oh yes, and sitting down and doing the work, getting it done, researching, editing, polishing, reading it through (again and again and again).
I love seeing characters come alive, and sensing that great depth to them – the known and the unknown. I love seeing them as individuals. I love seeing them come up strong.
The story of Sevi and Va’el’s adventure is only one of the threads weaving through the third book. I like them because of the surprises they have in store for me. The rest of the book, the other threads, are working out well, too. Perhaps I should talk about those other threads some time. 🙂
Cheers all, have a great day/evening.