How I Write — Character Writing

Back in October, I tried to surround myself with writers who were participating in NaNoWriMo.  I am always on the quest to build a community of writers that help each other out.  The one question that I was asked in preparation for NaNoWriMo was: “Are you ready?”

My answer was No.  I knew by their question they were asking if I had everything planned out.  So when I answered no, it was because I didn’t have everything planned out.  And the day I wrote, I still didn’t have everything planned out.  This of course confused people.  How can I begin writing if I don’t know every detail of what will happen?

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I classify most writers as a Plot Writer, putting focus on their plot more than anything else.  I consider myself a Character Writer, that I focus more on the characters than the plot.  It is not to say a Plot Writer doesn’t put time in designing their characters, or a Character Writer ignoring the plot, but it is more of where they place more focus on in the outline process.

It was actually Stephen King’s On Writing that help me develop myself as a Character Writer.  In the book, Stephen King talks about letting the characters tell the story.  He provided an example of this in his book Misery.

 

***POSSIBLE SPOILER***

6a0133f5335e39970b016764d74b8e970b-320wiIn the book Misery, when he began to write it, he thought the character Anne would have Sheldon write a masterpiece novel, kill him, and take credit for writing it.  But as he wrote the story, his character Sheldon ended up turning the tides and kills Anne instead.  So remember kids, the best way to deal with your addictions is a typewriter to the face (WARNING: Do not hit someone with a typewriter, that hurts!!!)

 

***POSSIBLE SPOILER***

When planning a story, I have found that many of the plot points I want to do, often get changed around or sometimes skipped/ignored all together.  All because my characters are telling the story.  Because of this, I put more focus on developing my characters, who they are, what are their backgrounds, what is their drink of choice, how do they feel about political issues, which mythical figure to they symbolize.  Now most of that won’t end up in the story, but I do know who they are and when it comes to plot, it is more of an obstacle I throw in the character’s way and knowing who they are, they tell me how they resolve it.

Some Character Writers state that their character’s talk to them.  Me, I don’t feel they talk to me.  I am more of a fly on the wall listening in to their conversation.  The great thing about doing this is that characters will often surprise you.  In my NaNoWriMo novel, “Karma’s Repentance”, I planned all my characters out, and there ended up being a new character I developed 100 pages into the story that sort of appeared out of nowhere and ended up being crucial to the story.

The con to this style of writing is that it is easy to run out of plot.  You focus more on the characters, you don’t know what should happen in the plot so the characters can properly go from A to B. Hello Writer’s Block. But I’m sure you have ways of dealing with writer’s block.

There is no one right way to do something and it comes down to deciding what is best for you.  If you feel that you must know every detail of a story before you write it, then go for it.  If you leave the plot up to chance and hope everything works out in the end, go for it.  This article is to provide a new way of looking at things and my fans to gain insight into my madness…I mean method.  But as writers, we are always looking to improve our craft and our style and I want to show you a different way of doing things.

Help Keep This Site Running

This site is a great achievement for me, but due to being unable to work, I may not be able to keep this site running. With your help, I might be able to.

I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.

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  • Kat Enright

    Though you do say that plot writers don’t ignore their characters and vise versa, I find it more satisfying to think of it as a spectrum. I don’t disagree with your classifications, but I think that it might be helpful to visualize it this way. Personally, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of the scale, having the basic structure for my characters and my plots, but leaving gaps so that they have room to grow.

    • I think a spectrum is fair to say, as I don’t believe in absolute terms (though sometimes I inadvertently use them). I won’t say one is better than the other, and I think it is good that you style tries to incorporate both. If we were to apply a spectrum, with each being 10 away from center and 0 being the exact middle of doing both plot and characterization, then I would say I am likely a 6 on the Character Writer side, that I still plan a little plot. I would question if people were either extreme.

  • Like the first commenter, I think both are important. I take characters very seriously, because people fascinate me, and there’s nothing worse than a book that’s so dependent on plot that the characters become souless puppets that act in ways contrary to the nature of real people. But I also think plot is very important; if your plot sucks, you might have the most interesting characters in the world, but your story will still suck.

    I like the way Stephen King said he approaches the problem in “On Writing.” He brings his characters to a certain place, and then he watches how the character responds and writes that, even if it takes the plot in an unexpected direction.

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