By: C.S. Lakin
Boy meets girl. Sparks fly. They fall instantly in love. Voila! Happily ever after.
Well, maybe in fairy tales and with couples who are self-delusional or sickeningly codependent.
But in real life? Among “normal” people?
Sure, maybe we all wish romantic love worked that way. But wishes don’t reflect real life. And a writer’s job—unless writing a particular type of fantasy story or showcasing highly dysfunctional characters—is to create stories that are slices of life.
And that means creating
real characters. Believable characters that feel and do things for
Getting Real Doesn’t Happen on Its Own
Too many characters in novels are impersonations of real people. It takes some careful thought to create really real characters. You have to be somewhat of a psychologist and learn about human nature.
Many of the novels I read or critique fall short
on creating real characters. And I don’t think it’s always due to the
author not spending enough time working on them. I sense that some authors
spend a whole lot of time thinking about their characters, but their creations
still come across flat and stereotyped.
It may have something to do with laziness and not wanting to work too hard to create each character. It may be that the writer doesn’t think
characters have to be all that developed—that as the plot
unfolds, the character will just “come into his own” and become real. I’m
thinking, though, the real reason is the writer hasn’t gone deep into herself
and examined why she is who she is.
I’m not suggesting we all go into therapy for a while or spend years psychoanalyzing ourselves (although some of us writers might benefit from that). But if we do some digging inside, we’ll find there are certain truths about why we are the way we are.
We all present a face to the world—a face we feel will help us survive—which is not wholly who we are. Some people may really live in that place of “true essence,” and that’s great. But populating a novel with characters like that only gives us “happy people in happy land.” Readers are more interested in flawed characters, and I bet, if you’re like me, you have some serious flaws lingering under the surface.
Getting to Know You
. . .
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