Monday, February 22, 2010

The Light in the Tunnel

"Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel / Was just a freight train coming your way"- Metallica

It's amazing how true those words can feel at times. In our lives we have good things happen, aka the light. And we have some pretty nasty bad things happen too. Betcha can't guess what that is. ;-)

So what do we as writers do about it? Do we suddenly abandon our humanity and take on the looks of a deer caught in that headlight? Do we scream and run at the thing in a final act of defiance? Or do we use that light to show us the way our and run like mad for the end of the tunnel?

Personally I'm in the survival group. What about you?

What about your characters?

If your writing is anything like mine then most of your stories put people in positions they never ever wanted to be in. How they react to this lets us know about them. But before our readers can get to know them we need to know them better than we know our own family. How do we do this?

I've tried a number of things. Some have worked really well for me others have failed miserably. For instance I know several writers who will take a ten page questionnaire full of details and fill it out. I can't do that. It bores me to tears. I discover my characters through action. whether I'm writing it out or just imagining it I have to put my characters in situations and watch them react. I'll imagine all sorts of things from their normal morning routine to how they act if they're hanging off a cliff with no one nearby to help.

but no matter how you do it you have to get to know them so they'll be believable. Otherwise the reader may just wish the freight train would catch up to them. :-)

What do you all do? How do you get to know your characters?


  1. I've got those questionaires...I don't use them, but I have them.:-) However, I usually just drop them in the middle of turmoil and just see how they get out of it. Of course, for novel characters, I do a lot of pondering about them before and while writing to make sure I have them right.

    Oh...that light at the back of the cave, that's the dragon about to have dinner.:-)

  2. I've used questionnaires in the past, and I've even outlined a novel once. But usually, I like to give the characters the lead and see what happens. Right now my female MC is upset because she's being sent away to school. I never even knew that was going to happen until I wrote chapter 5. I like it, and I am going to see where Amelia goes with it.


  3. I've seen the questionnaires too, but I'm like Cheryl and Jean, I pretty much let them lead the way. After all, when they popped into my head I wasn't sitting there trying to come up with a character, they just appeared. So it makes sense they get to tell me their story too. Besides, even if you TRY to put them into the box you think is best, they'll just find their way out of it. :-)