Character Development

One afternoon in my Advanced Writing Workshop, our class engaged in a lively debate about character development.  One man noted that characters are more crass now - he gushed over a time when ladies were ladies in novels and gentlemen were gentlemen (we had just finished critiquing a 50 shades kind of story, can you say awkward?).  He didn't understand the trend towards crass language and "in your face" popular literature.  Our lecturer, Barbara said, first - this romantic, pure time never existed.  She said Shakespeare had one of the most foul mouths in literature, it was just that no one understood it (AMEN).  Second, she said our characters lead us - sometimes we just don't have the luxury to  make them neat and tidy - legs crossed and polite as can be.  In particular, she said as writers, our job is to get our characters up and walking and then you just follow them around. I wrote that down in big letters in my notebook!

Writers, how often do you find yourself setting out to write one scene and you end up writing something totally different? Or how many times have you found yourself writing a scene and not only does some third character show up, she/he is louder than everyone else! In the first chapter of my book, my protagonist is reminiscing about his first time.  I didn't really intend to write it but the experience and his encounter with the woman took on a life of its own which ended up being an integral part of my protagonist's development.  Lisa, his first, was loud, vivid and you would have thought she was sitting in front of me as I was writing.  I pictured her sitting at my kitchen table (where I often write on my laptop, its by a big picture window that looks out on my neighborhood).  I pictured Lisa sitting in the chair across from me, obstructing my view of the window, wrapping her chewed fingernails on my table, rolling her eyes saying things like, "No, no, Faye, I was wearing my white sneakers" and "Hold on, at first, he didn't want to kiss me".  After awhile I had to tell Lisa to quiet down - this wasn't her story.

I've read that writing takes place in the subconscious part of your brain.  When you are in another level of consciousness, not quite present in reality (I told you we were a creepy breed).  That sort of lends itself to the truth of Barbara's statement doesn't it? I go back to that statement quite often in my notebook. As a reminder of why it never quite works when I try to make my characters anything other than exactly who they are.

Love & Light,


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