A Bunch of Characters

“Where do the characters in my fictional stories come from?” I often get asked this question. My short answer is, “I don’t know. They just seem to live in my mind, waiting to come out.” That may sound like the start of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but it really is the truth.

Creating a story can come from many sources: life experience, something that happened to a friend, something you have observed, or just plain fantasy based on a principle. Story scenery is painted across the page to amplify for the reader what is taking place with the characters. When we get to the characters, their persona takes on a life of its own. I have yet to read of a writer who said their character ended exactly the way they expected. Character development is complex and nuanced. In fact, many writers say they have an end point in their plot, but let the character’s path develop as the story is written.

Character development may sound daunting. Are you doing something wrong if your characters seem one dimensional? In many cases no. Depending on the character’s role in the story, being one dimensional may be correct. If every character is trying to have an epiphany then your characters will get lost. Use common sense and look at your everyday life for guidance in regards to the depth of your characters. For example: your primary character definitely needs depth, but the crossing guard she waves to everyday on her way to work does not.

Of the many parts of story character development is definitely my favorite. I am given the opportunity to create characters that will take me down paths I had not thought of originally. And then, my readers get a chance to know these characters and take the journey as well.

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