Welcome to the official blog of Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America! We're a local writers' group in the Toledo, Ohio area. Most of us write romance, but we also have members who write other genres too. New members are always welcome to visit or join the group. See the meetings page for details. We post every Monday and Friday about all things book-related. Whether you're a writer, reader, or both, we hope you'll stop by often and get to know our dozen contributors.

Friday, March 16, 2012

When our people are smarter than we are.

As writers it's a given that we're going to sneak bits of ourselves, big and small, into our characters. They like the same foods we like, drink the same things that make us happy, listen to the same music that gets us up and dancing or helps us through certain moods. We might even have them champion the same causes we hold near and dear to our hearts, get fired up over the same political viewpoints and worship in the same spiritual vein.

We get these ideas for stories and start to shape our characters as full-fledged people while we're constructing elaborate obstacle courses for them to navigate. We spend countless hours researching the jobs we want them to have in the places we want them to live and the time periods we want them to live in. But I've found that sometimes, if I'm really lucky, the learning process takes on a life of its own.

No matter how much shaping or molding I put into a character, one of my favorite parts of writing a story is the moment when that person starts to come into their own. Occasionally he or she will let me know that the job I picked out isn't working for them so much and they'd like to be such-and-such instead. Or they're not really a connoisseur of fine wine, they'd rather just kick back with an ice cold beer after a long day of work, thank you very much.

Once in awhile they lead me to something new that I enjoy. I found out I like a handful on not-popular Shakira songs when a heroine of mine wanted to dance around her living room to her, and I didn't know any of her music beyond the couple of hits I'd heard on the radio.

Sometimes they even like things that I do not, as in the hero I have who listens to Motorhead when he runs. Seriously!?! Motorhead? Without getting into the music itself, you'd pretty much have to be Superman to run to it, but there you have it. And as much as I wanted to like Indian food at one point in my own life, I do not. But I researched it thoroughly so the menu was authentic in a key scene instead of forcing them to eat something I knew more about.

I've even had a secondary character come into his own throughout the course of a story to the point that he pointed out a major trait in my main protagonist to ME!!! A conversation taking place between the two of them was just flying off my fingertips, and all of a sudden he said something that seriously made me stop typing and think, Well, aren't you smart, mister?

He's totally getting his own sequel for that.

Have you ever discovered something unexpected through your characters, even if it's something you don't necessarily like?

Thanks so much for stopping by today!
Have a terrific weekend.


Jennifer Shirk said...

What a great blog topic! Yes, there is a lot of bits and pieces of me in my characters but it is fun when they kind of go off and develop their own little personailty and likes. :)

Kristina Knight said...

Fun topic, Ayda! My characters tell me things about them - and each other! - all the time. That's when I know I'm on the right track.

Ayda Recknagel said...

Jennifer - they're a little like our kids that way, aren't they?

Kristi - all we have to do after we reach that point is listen, right?

Thanks for sharing with me this morning!

Tracy Madison said...

Great post, Ayda! I love when my characters begin to "have a life" separate from what I've thought up. It's always so interesting to seem them develop, and yes, it can be exciting. Well, okay, sometimes it can be frustrating--especially when they want to do something you don't want them to do!

Patrice Kavanaugh said...

Fun post! I like to believe (okay, pretend) that I share my characters' best traits...and none of their not-so-best! And I generally love the "surprise factor" when I write something (action move or line of dialogue) and my character stops me cold to tell me "I wouldn't do/say that. Here, let me show/tell you!"

Joanne said...

I have been surprised by my characters from time to time, usually by a decision they make that might also take the story in a new direction. It's definitely a fun part of crafting a story.

Ayda Recknagel said...

Tracy - I know those frustrations! They're especially tricky when they take you way off course and get you lost.

Patrice - What a coincidence. I don't have any of my character's flaws either! ;)

Joanne - I love it when they surprise me with a twist that is more interesting than where I might have been headed on my own.

Shay Lacy said...

My biggest surprise was the minor character who turned and asked, "Why don't we use that forklift to ram the door?" I hadn't seen the forklift. Thanks for sharing, Ayda.

Ayda Recknagel said...

Shay - Ha! Good thing they were there to point that out to you! :)

Constance Phillips said...

I love this topic, Ayda. Characters draw from us, for sure, but sometimes it's the things we (or I) could never do that I pour into them.

As a pantster, I'm always learning who they are through the developmment of plot.