Stories make up a large part of our lives. Either based on fact or fiction, our national history and our fairy-tales define situations and reactions to them which have consequences. This subtle fabric of all stories is how they stick in our minds, and the emotional journey of tension and relief in organised steps becomes a subconscious element of our lives. We learn behaviour from stories and we make decisions based on their morals. The rhetoric, or natural bias, of a story is therefore important and will be a large part of whether it is successful in the general public. It has to fit and be cohesive with the consensus of the public, grating on it must be done tactfully and artfully. Roses are more popular than cacti, and they both have thorns.
Stories help us develop our empathic responses to situations and to better understand what is happening around us. Especially for children, whose minds are still maturing, the outcomes of stories play a vital role in teaching them how the world will work. Stories are not just found in books, we see them on the television as news articles, drama, cartoons, and documentaries, we get them on the internet in all manner of ways, even advertisements often tell a bit of story, even if just a line or two. Music is often written in a story-land manner, where lyrics describe scenes and characters that are projected through sound. In all stories, we as the audience feel the characters as they go through their situations.
So when we design characters, we are not just telling tales. We are creating templates for common thought, so if they don't fit people in general won't want to know about it. There are always exceptions, for example in a horror film where the sadist commits terrible crimes, however a lot of psychology is used in order to create the most scary character possible. It is still related to consensus, only reversed. Making use of the people in our story to do more than fill a role is paramount to a rich and teachable literary piece. Don't we all want our book taught in class-rooms? And not as an example of what not to write.
Before you create a character, you need to research your choices. If you want to write about a cowboy then you really need to know about cowboys. If you want to set a book in the United States, you really need to know about America. It will not be legitimate if you don't take your character and their role in the world seriously. For those of you who create fantasy characters, are there similar people in other works you can relate to? If not then write a brilliant back-story, something that you can anchor everything else to.
Think about your character in their setting. You need to make sure they fit. So your cowboy will look great in a saloon but if he's in Medieval Scotland it will not make sense. You'll need a steam-powered time machine that can sail the Atlantic. Could be fun. Seriously though, make sure your characters fit the world they live in. If its a fluffy glitzy world then try to avoid disparity, keep it fluffy and glitzy. When you want something clearly as the opponent, don't go too far. They still need to be in suit with the rest of the story.
Your character isn't there to look nice. They play a role, and before you write them in you need to know why they're there. What wisdom and tensions can they bring, what are the pros and cons of this character to the story's outcome? How does their presence and actions affect the other characters, and why? All of these things matter a lot to writing fully developed characters.
Avoid attachment issues. We all love our art, and we often have an emotional attachment to it. This can be troublesome when we want something to be successful. We need to let go of the quirks and the bits that we love even though they don't fit. This all has to go, plus we can sometimes realise we've been forgetting a vital thing and have to delete and do it all again. We have to be able to do this or the project will fail.
Bring them to life. Your characters are not just people in your story, they're real people in a real world. You need to accommodate for this and put real lives into effect. We don't have to travel with them while they do it all, else the book will never end, however the important thing is to give the impression they have a life outside of the main story. Give them jobs, make them in a hurry, allow them to tell someone about their day. Keeping all these hidden elements in mind while we write them in can help with ensuring they don't just hang around until next time we see them.
Knowing all this will no-doubt help you to write effective stories that people enjoy reading. It takes a lot of work to write a book and when we do, there is no guarantee it will be accepted. Never give up, change bits if you want to, or simply put it to one side and start again. The only way is up as long as we don't hold onto the past. Keep going, all of you.
You know already there is much more to it than that, to get ahead and rise above perhaps this full course in creative writing is for you?
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