Friday, 22 June 2012

My Characters Won't Talk To Me!

I always envy those authors who, when asked in interviews where they obtain their inspiration for their story lines and character personalities, say: 'They lead me along their own path and I simply follow and write down what they tell me. I go where they want to go and do what they decide to.' 

Well my characters don't do that - at all. They sit on my screen staring at me with plaintive looks on their blank faces [because I haven't given them features yet] saying, 'Well, don't just sit there - what do you want me to do? How should I think about this situation?' 'How do I feel about this? Do I laugh, cry, panic - what?' 'Where am I?'

They are like actors who keep asking what their motivation is for a particular scene and keep taking coffee breaks because they just cannot get into 'the zone'. I have to do everything, from pick their eye colour to organise their thoughts, politics, sexual proclivities and even dress them. They have no imagination or voice. I wouldn't mind if they argued with me a little, but when I get stuck, all I get is silence.

Where do I find characters who guide me, as opposed to lumps who sit down in the road and refuse to go anywhere? It ain't fair.

10 comments:

Lisa Yarde said...

Ok, so here's where I reveal just how anal I am - before I sit down to write, I've got an Access database that lists my character's height, weight, hair texture, physical and personality traits, family history, plus birthplace, favorite color, does he / she like children, etc. Is it an incredible amount of work? Yes. Does it help in fleshing out the character? Immensely (except the rare moment where hair and eye colors change cause I'm not looking at the database). Don't judge me for my anal behavior!

Anita Davison said...

Not anal, Lisa, simply structured. And I admit I pretty much do that too, but it's that jump from window dummy to feeling human being that stumps me! I'll get it eventually.

Morrigan Dubh said...

I spend ages trying to work out my characters before writing &, even then, they decide, "Whoa, there sister! You want to put us on that page? Paste us onto Word? Forget about it!" Stubborn mules. That along with any ideas that I have, I've trouble getting them out of my head.
I love your blog, by the way! I just found it through another blog I read, Strictly Writing. I hope to become a regular reader. :)

*Goes off to follow*

Petrea Burchard said...

For me it comes a couple of ways. Like Lisa says, it helps to write down traits. I also learn about the characters in the drafting of the novel. The first draft isn't going to be seen by anyone else's eyes anyway, so it's a good place for me to discover the characters and what they will and will not do or say. By the third draft or so, if I start to write something "out of character," I'll know it immediately.

Debra Brown said...

I must say, mine do their thing. I am dismayed at the lack of personality my Dante has in comparison to Wills in the last book. Wills was a pill, n a fun way. Dante is just a nice guy with no personality. I wish he'd do something about that. It really puzzles me as to where Wills personality came from . ???

I depend on them too much, perhaps. I have a clipboard with a blank piece of paper. As I write and it turns out that Molly's golden hair sparkles in the sunlight, I make a note that she has golden hair. I might compare that with what I have learned about the other gal, since they cannot look the same, but it usually turns out that they did not. I do wish I had just one writing spot so the clipboard was always nearby....

Mary said...

Hi Anita ... what about inviting your characters along to a virtual dinner or possibly banquet (in your genre)and see who attends? Who arrives? What are they wearing? Who gossips about the others? What do they say? Who engages? Who refrains and why?

I'm no expert on the matter but it may help to get some of those silent characters up and moving ... and if nothing else you may have a chuckle or two! I've just 'found' an infamous dancer in a fugitive late night shopper ... ahh the imagination knows no bounds! Some great tips shared here. Good Luck!

Anita Davison said...

What a good idea, Mary, I defy them to keep quiet when they are sat round a table having questions thrown at them. Now to plan the menu....

Petrea Burchard said...

Mary reminds me I like to go hiking with difficult characters--just me, the trail and whoever I need to talk to. I let them put on modern dress and shoes for the trail, and we have a heart-to-heart in the wilderness.

Just hope not to come across other hikers...

Deborah Swift said...

I have the opposite problem in that mine talk too much and go off on meandering sidetracks, mostly ones that if I let them, would alter history! I'm forever shepherding them back.

You can have some of my worst culprits if you like, and see if you can make them behave.

Anita Davison said...

Now that's an interesting idea, Dee - Swap characters and make them behave - You know that could work

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