Back on the Chain Gang: Get Real!

PhotobucketAnother round on our ever-growing blog chain! Photobucket

The current topic was started by the lovely Leah Clifford : How Real Are Your Characters?

I’m only the second blogger to post on this topic, but I will bet big money that every blogger after me will insist their characters are quite real to them. Photobucket

Cardboard cut-outs just don’t inspire people to write about them. 😉

So how real are my characters? How much do I know about them? Photobucket

Like most writers, I know an awful lot more about my characters than will ever make it into my book. Photobucket

Although I could tell you tons of details about any of my characters– from why Raymond has a Buckeyes magnet on his refrigerator… to how Dr. Evans ended up practicing in a little town like Gladstone… to what Helena ever saw in Vincent– I think it’s only natural that I have special affection for my protagonist.

Beatrice was a bit of a challenge to write, and I hope I’ve finally hit upon the right mix for her. Given her incredibly traumatic background, despite having repressed the memories, she simply can’t be well-adjusted. Her relationships and development had to be subconsciously influenced by the trauma she can’t remember.

Which is why she puts up with Dane’s crap.

Why her self-esteem barely registers.

Why she struggles to interact socially.

Why her emotions are stunted at the beginning of the novel.

And as she reclaims control over her past, she begins to recover. There are components of her character that are almost teen-like, as her social skills and sense of self catch up with her chronological age

Beatrice changes dramatically throughout the novel (as all protagonists must) but even as she triumphs over her demons, she also needs to incorporate that traumatic past into who she is at the end.

So, yes… I could tell you how Beatrice takes her coffee (two sugars and a drop of cream) or what kind of music speaks to her (think Smokey Robinson), and while those details certainly help to define her as a real entity, to me they contribute less to her character than her motivations.

Our characters have to want something. If there’s no goal, there’s no conflict. But it’s the complexities of the WHY they want what they want that really adds depth for me. 🙂

That’s about as coherent as I’m going to get on this topic since I’m on hour 38 of no sleep. Photobucket But you all can look forward to a gorgeous and organized post on this interesting topic coming up on Mary Lindsey’s shiny new blog! Photobucket


15 Responses

  1. Ahhh, excellent post and so true! But I will save my elaboration for my own post 😉 Go get some sleep you poor woman!! And tell your characters to speak quietly so they don’t disturb you 😀

  2. LOL Tell that to Dickens. Or at least his publisher. I’ve read almost all his novels and the women are not even good enough to be called cardboard cutouts – but it sure sells. For that matter, a lot of his male characters aren’t that good either, but at least they have fun adventures.

    And don’t get me started on Charlotte Bronte…

  3. Hour 38!?? Sorry, I just cannot get over your superhuman ability to write while severely sleep deprived. Hmmm… I have to say I am seeing a theme here concerning the way characters take their coffee. Leah’s had hers with caramel and yours is a cream and sugar person – hmmm… does coffee really have a deeper meaning here?

  4. Heather! 38 hours! Wow, no wonder your characters are alive in you! I totally agree about them wanting something and really getting at WHY they want that particular thing. The motivating factor is huge in a novel, otherwise, why do I care to read about it? Great post!

  5. Oh, pish-tosh.

    38 hours is par for my course. I’ve been working overnight call for over 10 years now, so I’m pretty used to it. 🙂

    Although, I do seem to get a little crabbier about it as I get older. *snort*

    It has definite benefits, too. Right now, I’m working a lot of extra because I’m covering for some of my gang’s vacations and then so some can have time off to study for the Pediatric Board Exam in October. Come November, though, I will only be working five 28-hour shifts per month. So, except for a few meetings and lectures, I get the rest of the month off.

    And, Kate, my fixation on the coffee probably springs from the fact that when I blog post-call, it’s usually from the doctor’s lounge or my beloved Caribou. And either way, it’s with a strong latte beside me. 😉

  6. I liked reading more about Beatrice, since I’ve “met” her! Great post!

  7. Yeah!

    More coffee!


    And a very pretty (and smilie) blog. Keep up the great work.

  8. This might be my favorite post of yours so far. Well, I dunno…Flying Sperm may outrank it.

    I can feel your attachment to your characters even in a blog post. The fact you focus on the motivations rather than the actions is a delight to me.

    Thanks for sharing your process.

  9. Wow, you do know your characters. I’m now feeling like I don’t know mine at all.

    And, wow, 38 hours. If I’m not in bed by ten each night, I get cranky. You definitely have a soopah powah

  10. I love Bea, and it’s awesome to find out more about her! And she is a superhero! Taking care of kiddos all night and then her hubby during her days off. That doesn’t even include fixing the in-laws swimming pool and helping me with my MS! Amazing woman!
    And I agree Mary, I love this post, but the flying sperm was down right hilarious!!!! her poor mom.

  11. You are a friggin’ rock star my pet!!!!!!!!!

    Miss you!


  12. It’s funny how we all know how our characters take their coffee…Ms. Java must be loving this 🙂 Great post, Heather!

  13. Sonia!!

    How’s your dream doing?

    Miss you, too!

  14. Flying Sperm will always be my favorite, I think. 🙂

  15. […] had another topic in mind, but the recent discussion about the “Realness” of characters got me thinking along a different […]

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