Monday, February 7, 2011

The Problem with Character

Carl Jung is quoted to have said,
“Honest writing cannot be separated from the person who wrote it.”

I rather tend to agree with Carl. I believe we create the best characters when we know ourselves—the depth of who we are, what we stand for, what we don't stand for, and what we won't stand for--and tap into that depth when we write.

Writers often have trouble creating believable, unusual characters. Instead, we make them cookie-cutter, stereotypical people, and as a result, bore our readers. Even though we might conduct extensive research, we resist the elements that end in helping us develop multi-faceted, exciting characters with emotions from the inside out. Research by itself won’t fix this problem.

Why? Because the most important element for creating characters with emotional and psychological depth—wishes, feelings, passion, depth and vision—resides within me, the writer. To write meaningfully, I must connect my inner world with the outer world of my creation.

It is easy to learn the craft of writing, but it takes more than just structure to make our writing and our characters come to life. Before our characters can stand out from all others we must tap into our inner self while creating that character. We must be present inside them and let our writing reflect that, or our story will lack depth. Our readers must hear our voice as the narrator—not some detached fact teller.

We must create a variety of different characters that express all the various voices we hear within ourselves.

WE, the writer, make the difference between a lackluster character portrayed over and over, and a character with a fresh, unique voice.

How do we do learn to do this? Stay tuned.


Morgan Mandel said...

I agree that a writer has to connect in some way with the characters or the book won't connect with readers either.

Even if the character I'm writing about is completely different than I am, I use foibles or cares of people I know so I can pretend I'm the character. Bottom line there has to be some connection.

Morgan Mandel

Mike Dennis said...

Very well put, Sylvia. A concise, thoughtful piece on the single most difficult component of the fiction-writing process.

Earl Staggs said...

Sylvia, you have my attention. I'd like to learn how to do it better, so I'll "stay tuned" to see what more you have to say.