Living characters

One of the interesting things to me about writing fiction is watching how the story takes on a life of its own and how characters grow beyond their original sketch.

My usual method of writing is to get an idea I’m excited about. I’ll then very quickly write out a chapter or two. At that point I’ll usually get stuck and have to go write a proper outline for the entire story. Over time, that outline moves and changes. Some ideas are discarded and new ones are added in.

What’s really interesting, though, is the characters. They all start as a name and basic description. A very broad sketch of a person. As I begin to write for them they grow beyond that. Some grow in rather unexpected directions as I begin to evaluate dialogue and actions. I begin to think “would this person really do this?” and it begins to inform the story.

The funny part comes when it’s time to kill a character. Sometimes I will have outlined a character’s death in the beginning. When it comes time to actually write the scene, however, I find I’ve really become fond of the character and don’t particularly want to kill them off. Other times I become surprisingly attached to a character and realize that killing them would bring the most emotional moment possible. So, off with their heads.

To me, that is the exciting part of writing. It’s like planting a seed in the ground. I know what kind of tree it will be when it’s grown, but all the intricacies of its growth can never be predicted.


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