Fictional Characters as Real People

We haven’t been talking much about fantasy-writing on this fantasy-writing blog. Oh, we discuss plenty of out-and-out fantasy–like the campus rape culture, Global Warming, microaggression, income equality achieved by the brute force of government: stuff that has no basis in reality whatsoever. Why, just today, one of the Red Pope’s henchmen blasted “Climate Change deniers.”

Sometimes I just can’t stand it anymore. So on to something more constructive.

The picture above (if it comes out!) is from The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, showing Jakob Grimm (Laurence Harvey) sick in bed, to the point of death, being visited by all the characters in his fairy tales. This is what I’m getting at today.

If you’re writing a fantasy (or any other kind of story) that you want your readers to believe in, you have to believe in it. And the thing that makes any novel fly is characters. You have to believe in your characters.

Teach yourself to see each and every one of them as a real person–someone who has a whole life in addition to the tiny bit of it that you’re writing about.

That does not mean you have to map out a cradle-to-grave biography for every walk-on character. That’s a primitive technique that can easily lead to overloading a story with irrelevant information. You don’t have to actually know that character’s whole life: just be fully aware that he or she has one.

The needs of the plot, if you allow it, will generate characters as needed. They come walking into your story from Character-Land, ready and willing to do a piece of work for you.

For instance, in my just-started book, The Throne, I needed a new commander of the Thunder King’s bodyguard–and in walked a big, fierce, superstitious lout named Bassas, fast with his fists, greedy for gold, but with no real idea of how to spend it, and some small scrap of honor left in his soul. I already know I’m gonna love this guy!

True, this is not the easiest thing in the world to do. It takes years and years of practice.

But once you’re able to do it–boy, can you have fun writing!

3 comments on “Fictional Characters as Real People

  1. So true!
    As much as your current events posts are necessary, and can even be humorous in their absurdity, your writing posts always make me genuinely happy.

  2. Couldn’t agree more! I love it when characters emerge on their own and surprise the heck out of me. They help keep writing the exciting adventure it should be in spite of all the charts and outlines I use to stay organized. When such characters show up I’ve learned to just step aside and hand over the keyboard. I am never disappointed When I do.

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