Where Do My Characters Come From?

Jacobean Drama & Theatre: An Overview Of Drama Of The Era

An Elizabethan stage play

If you write novels, people are bound to ask, “Where do your characters come from?”

Well, I write fantasy, so “write what you know” is out. Model characters after real people. But I’ve never met any kings, outlaws, hermits, or barbarian chieftains, so that’s out, too.

I don’t know where my characters come from!

It’s the truth. It’s as if the book were a stage set up for a play, with the characters all waiting in the wings for their cues to come onstage. They already know their lines! They know what they’re supposed to do. Pop goes the cue, and “Enter Lady Gwenlann,” who appears to be a scatterbrained wardrobe mistress but in reality is in charge of all the king’s spies. Cue again, and “Enter Jocky,” the king’s fool.

Really, it’s just as if the characters were already signed up and waiting to play their parts… and I didn’t have much to do with it. I need ’em, and there they are.

This is one of those things that makes writing fun. You don’t have to do it this way, but I’ve come to enjoy it.

5 comments on “Where Do My Characters Come From?

  1. Something similar happens to me when I write sometimes. I don’t plan what’s going to happen in the story or who the characters will be. The story just comes to my mind and I watch what happens, as if it were a movie.

    1. Maybe that’s why so many stories are bad, and some writers don’t seem to love the characters themselves. I don’t know how I can describe it, but it’s something so spontaneous. It’s as if the stories I write have always been on my mind and I just didn’t know it.

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