Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why I Talk To My Characters

Yes, I talk to my characters. I admit it. I yell at them. I call them names that I would not repeat in front of my grandmother. I plead with them. I beg them to stop doing that really annoying thing that has been bugging the bejesus out of me for the last fifty pages. In short, I treat them like real people - most of the time, people that generally irritate me to no end.
But, why, silly writer? Aren't you creating those characters? Why would you treat them as if they were real? Simple. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then it's a duck. If it sounds like a real person, acts like a real person, and annoys me like a real person, then...you guessed it, it's a real person. The last thing a writer wants is for a reader to come back and say, "The characters felt so flat, one-dimensional, like reading a cardboard cutout." *Shudders*
When I'm describing a particular scene, I imagine what it would look, sound and smell like. I visualize the details down to the crack in the sidewalk, the blaring car traffic, and the rotten stench from a sewer cover. It doesn't all get used in the story, but it helps paint the picture. The more vivid the image, the more "real" the experience. The technique is similar to the way movie folks use storyboards.
As for characters, a film's casting director has to find the perfect actor or actress to depict a role. This is not all that different to the way a writer fleshes out a character. Besides physical appearances - which often can be altered without hurting the story - the character needs a certain personality, a swag, a je ne sais quoi. They need to come alive by including a history, a childhood, a perception of the world. Everything, absolutely everything, can mold a character into a person.
So, despite questions to my sanity - and come on, being a writer practically guarantees a disposition for the crazies - I talk to my characters.

Have you ever read a story where the characters practically walked off the page? What made them real to you?

12 comments :

  1. I can't say I talk to my characters, though they're very real to me. For me, I tend to be more like their God (yeah, I know- mwahahahaha!) And I just watch them and bitch slap them as needed.

    I blogged this week a little about characters too- hope you'll stop by!
    www.colbymarshall.com/blog

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    1. Hi Colby! How did I miss your blog? Love it! Going to read up on your character post now.

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  2. I can't say I talk to my characters on regular basis, but there have been a few times :) They're also often just on my mind, taking up residence for extended periods of time.

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    1. Okay, leave me in the lurch. Fine! LOL. Kidding.

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  3. LOL! I'm not alone! Yay! I couldn't agree more. The more 'real' we make our characters, the better our story is.

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    1. Oh thank goodness. For a second, all I could think was "Oh God, I just admitted to being insane. No one's ever going to talk to me again...except my characters." LOL

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    2. I still love you, even though you're insane! ;p LOL j/k You're awesome! I think the fact that you talk to your characters is a sign of a great and very involved writer!
      I actually think I should talk to my characters more!

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  4. I talk to my characters too. And I argue with them. Or talk out loud for them. LOL.

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  5. Great post! I like that line about molding a character into a person. I can't say I've ever talked to my characters but sometimes it sure feels like they're real people, making decisions and saying things when I had planned otherwise. Usually takes me by surprise, but I guess those moments are part of what define these story-people.

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  6. I don't talk to them...yet. I do sit in front of the computer though and think "gosh, why are you such a wuss!" and have to think the whole scene through in detail to figure out what went wrong.

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  7. Great post! I totally agree. I learned this early because the best characters I READ about were the ones I talked to, yelled at, and ordered around before throwing the book against the wall...then picking it back up to see what happened next. If your readers aren't doing this, your characters aren't real enough. Thanks for reminding us all of that! :D

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  8. Super awesome post! I do the same thing - I sit there and put myself in the characters' heads and ask a whole lot of questions. Characters have to be real or the reader can sense it - just like you said. Authors should do more talking and yelling. I think I'll get back to mine :)
    Thanks!

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