Heart of a Character

Last night I wrote one of the final chapters of the novel I am currently writing, Heir to Koloso, the second novel in the Rise of the Temple Gods series.  The scene in question was one I had actively avoided writing for a long time, despite fully knowing exactly how the scene was going to take place.  I knew that in order to do justice by the story I am writing, the scene had to be written.  I cried as I wrote the last paragraph and when I was done, I left the scene with a profound sense of guilt and sadness.

I pride myself on creating independent characters who have their own interests, backstories, and personalities.  Long before a story is completed, and occasionally from their first conception, my characters take on a life of their own.  In fact, I often feel that I am not so much writing a story as instead transcribing the one being whispered by the various characters who come to whisper their tales in my ear.

To some this idea that my characters are individuals who can be spoken to, argued with and bring tears to my eyes, might seem a strange description.  However, it is my belief and my experience that this is the case.  Characters can, and often are, as real to an author as the person standing in the room next to them.  It is because of this close and often complex relationship between myself and my protagonists, that makes the emotional scenes so difficult to write.

In order to write these scenes to the best of one’s ability, an author often attempts to force themselves both mentally and emotionally into the role of the character being written.  If I cannot feel the emotional impact that is dealt to the character, then I cannot reasonably expect my readers to be affected by their plight either.  Only by fully exposing myself to the same emotional journeys experienced by my protagonists can I understand how the character in question should react.  This is also, perhaps, one of the reasons why one of the most common pieces of writing advice offered to young writers by professionals is simply to “write what you know.”

To help myself enter these types of scenes, I often set a musical playlist.  Absolute silence generally finds me terribly unproductive when writing.  I tend to use different types of music in order to help create and support the emotional level of a given scene.  My family will often say that when I am listening to something upbeat, I am fun to be around.  However, when I am listening to a straight track of Celine Dion, the best thing to do is to hand me a glass of wine and slowly back away from the door.

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