07 May

How Long Have You Spent with Your Characters?


There are countless Character Bibles online and countless more tips on crafting genuine, wholesome characters, which is all fine and good, but have you ever asked yourself if you've spent enough time with your "people" before you ever sit down to have them speak and act and be?
I've yet to see any "expert" spend serious time on this subject.
The literary online world is focused on speed and quantity and rarely talks about the quality of a work. Like fine wine, great characters aren't fully formed in an author's mind overnight or by merely filling out a form.
If you're writing a book-length piece, you need MONTHS, sometimes years, to acclimate yourself to those characters, as time is the only parameter which allows your subconscious to naturally form those imagined people into unique personas. You have to live and breathe these individuals and allow distinct verbiage and mannerisms to flow from your mind. No form, no fill-in-the-blank answers, will get you there sooner.
Again, another reason why I call writing a book work and not fun.
Patience is one of the best qualities an author can possess. If you have the patience of a squirrel on Speed, your prose will reflect that, and most especially your dialogue. It will sound flat, or worse, cliché, and all you will present are caricatures, not characters.
Look at it like this: you meet somebody new at a cocktail party. You experience this person - their mannerisms, their speech, their motivations, their weaknesses, their strengths - a half dozen times, max. How much do you really know that person? The answer: not at all.
HOMEWORK: find ways to "live" better with your characters. 
Cut out photos of people who remind you of them. 
Stick them up on your story board to look at each day. 
Whenever they talk to you, write that verbiage down - day or night. 
Talk to them yourself. Be with them. 
Decide that they are truly real, that this story in which they are involved is real, too. 
Start living this tale yourself!
And above all... Slow. The. Heck. Down.
Writing a book-length tale is not a race. Don't fall for market competition. A great story is never crafted on anyone else's timeline but your own, and your characters'. Remember that. 
This book will finish, and its characters will shine, once all have had the time to properly steep in your mind.
Again, this aspect of book writing comes down to psychology. 
Be confident in yourself and your artistic ability. Don't fall for group pressure or Group Think in deciding when your mind is prepped to begin to write on your characters. Each book has its own timeline. Each character, too.
Ask yourself: Do I want to create a memorable work or do I just want to pump out forgettable pulp fiction? If it's the former, slow down, and marinade in that world and those people living within.
Your characters will forever thank you for it.

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