Like many other writers, I hold a fascination for the topic of inspiration, especially when it comes to developing characters. Some writers believe their character is a transient being who speaks to them and urges them to move to an entirely different state in order to record their story properly, while other writers believe that their characters belong entirely to them — that they are creations of their own will and will do whatever they are told to do. So, where do I stand on this topic?
Well, I certainly don’t believe a character is beholden to our pen as much as we’d like to believe they are. For me, a character arrives and makes their presence known in a number of ways. I’ve had characters arrive in dreams, in unconscious states, and in flashes of images. Then again, I’ve had characters arrive through voices and snippets of overheard dialogue. Usually, in my case, that’s where the work of discovering a character begins.
I begin to question the character and try to understand their motivation. Who are they? Why would they say this? What are they doing? What are their desires? And perhaps more importantly, why do they desire what they desire?
Each character, more often than not, arrives on my doorstep or in my consciousness in a different way, but the way I treat the character remains the same: with curiosity, compassion, and respect. I want to understand what they have to say without judgment. I want to know why they have chosen this moment to arrive and what it means to the story I am currently writing.
In this way, I am, as you might have guessed, a character-driven writer. I can’t begin a story without a character. In my stories, I develop the plot through the character’s motivations, desires, fears, and dreams. It is only through keeping an open ear that I am able to even begin writing a story. So, if I don’t know who the character I’m writing about is, well then I don’t have a story to write.
I need to walk in the character’s shoes. I need to truly understand them in order to even really begin.
So, what about you? How do you write your stories?
Do you believe characters run away with you or are they entirely under the control of your pen?