When you eat, dream, and talk in your character’s voices and are getting strange looks from passerbys then you know you are right where you need to be…living in your story, breathing with your characters, wondering how they are going to solve the obstacles you’ve given them to overcome.
And that’s such an exquisite place to be and one that you won’t share with any others. When you’re writing that novel you need to be screaming in frustration with your protagonist or driving a powerful car with your antagonist as they try to escape. But with salivating mouth you force the protagonist to calm down and figure out how to end the madman driving insanely away with the woman you love.
You are the maestro and must know all the parts!
You’re Not Crazy, But Those Are Real Voices In Your Head
As writers we need to develop strong characters for our stories. They must become real people with their own views on the world and hold true to their own morals, misguided or not. And you must know their back-story:
- Where did they grow up?
- What were they like in school?
- Were they loners or the life of the party?
- Do they have both parents and, if not, why not? Siblings?
- Are they working their dream job and, if not, why not and what is it?
These are just a few things you as the author must determine because here’s what will happen: as you draft your outline and begin writing these “people” will be taking over. And you need to understand them well enough to know when they are speaking or you are (perhaps you just wanted to get in one little political shot). But you need to surrender to their voices.
So three things:
- Develop them
- Let them talk for themselves
- And then overcome their obstacles with them
“He Said – She Said”: Moving Between The Characters
Having a firm grasp of who your characters are, what motivates them, and what they want will make it easier to shift back and forth as each one speaks. You need to let them approach the problem or conflict from their own unique perspective and decide how they will overcome it. Perhaps they choose to ignore it, which speaks volumes to who they are and how they approach life and others. Or they know how to ask, plead, or manipulate others to help them…leadership or dictatorship?
Typically the protagonist and antagonist are relatively easy to write for, you’ve built your story around them. But what about the others? There are other characters that you have brought to life and you need to know them, too. They have their own dreams and struggles and how they respond in your book is what will help move the story forward. Each one will bring their own subtle twists and purpose to the story and you need to know them well enough to allow their voices to speak up and be heard.
TIP: Don’t add dialogue as a space-filler. Everything these characters say must be said for a reason and it should lead to further conflict or resolution.
Super-Charge The Emotions…Sometimes
Please make sure your characters are not screaming, crying, or laughing all the time in an attempt to keep your readers on the edge of their seats (plus it may unhinge your mind listening to the wailing all the time). What will actually happen if you don’t control your character’s emotions is that your readers will quickly become emotionally drained and will likely close your book permanently to maintain their own sanity, but you’ve already lost yours.
You need to set those scenes up where the only recourse is to scream or even have a tantrum or a hissy-fit or a battle of wills. It will actually become more meaningful and memorable for your readers and they will madly flip the pages as they get caught up in how your characters are ripping strips off of each other or screaming at the gods of indecency and unfairness.
A book has a series of “mini-climaxes” that are leading to the big one, the one that decides the outcome of the story. So you need to plot these into your outline so that your story grows and builds towards the “main event”. And how your character’s emotions and what they say are how you build the suspense in a sustained drip before opening the cathartic faucet.
Oh, and don’t believe everything your characters say. Each one thinks the story is about them and will do what they can to twist it to their advantage so they win. But they must play according to your plot!