Friday, March 11, 2011

On Singing Characters

Characters and I have issues.

I say this because in nearly every story I have written, my critiquers and readers have turned to me and said "The plot is great and all, but the main character sucks" or "I'm not interested at all in the development of this character". Given that most fiction, or good fiction at least, tends to be at least in part character driven, that becomes quite discouraging.

I do have a secret weapon for character development, however. At least, for when it goes right. When I have a character I want to turn out especially well, I find them a song, and build a personality from it. To put it in mildly hippie-ish, new agey terms, I let the song act as the character's soul and I just sing them into life on the page. It's actually extremely satisfying, and when it works I end up with a great character.

My first example of this trick was a villain that I placed in my first book. I heard a song at the time of one of the rewrites and immediately knew it fit the character. After a few instances of heavy editing, I was extremely satisfied with the result. The only issue was, the villain became far and away more sympathetic and interesting than the main character/hero, which was kind of an unbalanced arrangement that messed up the book.

More recently, I've used the technique to work on both Wolfhound and Kingsley. Since Wolfhound's main issue involved character problems, I spent some time searching for songs to fit their story. It seems to have worked for the most part, at least to the extent that the characters have become as interesting to me as the plot. Kingsley's an interesting case as the entire world the story takes place in (Hectorworld?) in part arose from a song I was listening to. Both Hector and Patricia have songs as well, and some of their villains will have truly nafarious music to power them along.

So do you guys have any tricks like this to help your characters come to life? Let me know! I'll see you later, and hope all the best for you.

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