Monday, August 3, 2009

Just Straight-up Say It

When it comes to writing an interesting character, I think the best ones are those who go verbal places we're afraid to. Sometimes they use subtext, sometimes speak the truth, straight-up.

Or maybe your characters break some rules you would never dare to even imagine breaking? Maybe they expose themselves, make themselves vulnerable to other characters? Or do they demand things we've learned to only wish for?

What's the wildest thing one of your characters has done? Would you do it?

66 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

Hmmm... fit throwing is something one of my characters is a bit prone to and she has done some wild stuff in rages. But, would I do it? Yeah, I might if I had her motivations :)

Jessica said...

LOL Tabitha! Throwing a fit is rather liberating, right? Hehee. She sounds like an interesting heroine.

Jody Hedlund said...

I was just reading about this exact thing in the Breakout Workbook, how we need to have our characters say, do, and think those larger-than-life things that we might never do. I guess that's one of the reasons I love writing, I get to live vicariously through my characters and do and say those wild things I couldn't really do or say in real life!

Jessica said...

Me too Jody, and it SO fun! LOL

Marybeth Poppins said...

I enjoy making my characters fearless, considering I'm quite the wimp. They say whatever is on their mind, regardless of the circumstances. (Which can be quite the flaw) But sometimes I really wish I had the guts to do the same!

Jessica said...

LOL Marybeth, I have trouble seeing you as a wimp! Yeah, that kind of flaw is kind of a courageous one. I wish I had the guts to do that too.

MeganRebekah said...

Awesome question!
My characters are asked to break someone out of jail.
Gotta say, I definitely wouldn't do it.

Katie Ganshert said...

Hmmmm...the wildest thing one of my chaaracters has done. Well, one of the most messed up is suicide. But that's a pretty heavy topic on a Monday.

Debra E Marvin said...

Kill someone? does that count?

Hey Jessica, congrats on being 99% done with "The Bridegroom needs a new Title"

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

One of my "up tight" characters throws an unexpected hysterical fit in the parking lot of a hospital where she ends up laying in a grassy area screaming and crying!

Jessica said...

Oooh, that's a good one Megan. I'm not sure I'd do that either. LOL

Jessica said...

Hi Katie,
Suicide is a heavy topic, for any day. That's sad. I hope that character ends up in a better place by the end of the story.

Terri Tiffany said...

My guy stops at a drugstore, buys nailpolish remover and throws the bag at his wife telling her to take off her polish--on their wedding day.

Jessica said...

LOL Debra! Definitely counts. :-) Thanks for the congrats. If I can just get that last bit done....Heeehee

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Had to think on this. But here's one: Make a spectacle of herself in front of a whole congregation by feining the presence of cockroaches--all to divert attention from her. Fiona's a bad one!!!

Jessica said...

Eeek! Donna, that's hilarious! You know in real life we'd be eyeing someone like that, arching our brow and making a wide berth.
Well, I would at least. LOL

But to read about that kind of character is pretty entertaining. LOL

Jessica said...

Terri,
Now that kind of man would make me mad. Grrrr... unfortunately I think there are mean guys out there like that. Is this the story I read?
Harumphh.

Jessica said...

LOL Eileen! Now that IS hilarious! If someone said there were cockroaches by me, I'd freak.

Kristen Painter said...

I don't think I can answer that, but I'll try. My characters have killed people, jumped from great heights, dedicated their lives to revenge, gotten full body tattoos, fought for money, drunk blood...

When you're an urban fantasy writer, there's a lot your characters do that you wouldn't.

Rita Gerlach said...

In my novel just released, I'd say the wildest thing my heroine does is grab an attacker's flintlock pistol and hold it to his head.

Don't ever let your characters do something that is not possible, or would not happen in reality. Your readers will say, 'that's impossible' and you could lose them. But make your characters true to life. Pull them off the pages as real, living, breathing people and you gain a reader. Make your character, as Jessica said, do things that surprise the reader, fascinate them, cause them to cheer them on, and they will keep turning the pages.

I think I would do what Juleah in Surrender the Wind did and grab that pistol and raise it at my attacker. Whether I would have the courage to pull the trigger, I don't know. Maybe. Definitely if it was a matter of life or death.

Jessica said...

LOL Kristen! When I was writing this I actually thought of you because you write vampires. I wondered what you'd say. As for the full body tat, some people do that... *shiver*

Jessica said...

Eeek! Don't give it away! LOL I haven't gotten to your book yet.
I hope I would have the courage to do that too. I'd think I'd be trembling so bad though...
Thanks for commenting Rita! You're right, it's fun to have our characters do wild things, but it also has to be believable.

Genny said...

Great thoughts, and great comments here! I think one of the best ways to make characters interesting is to have them do things that you (or others) wouldn't normally do.

Janna Qualman said...

My MC is breaking out of her shell, and I'm living vicariously through her.

Stephanie Faris said...

I can't think of anything a character of mine has done that I wouldn't. I need to work on that!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

My characters haven't done anything wild that I can recall. Ha! Maybe I need to get more adventurous in my writing.

Thanks for the idea.

Blessings,
Susan :)

anita said...

Great post! I think my favorite / most challenging characters to write are the villains or anti-heroes because they are so different and off the cuff of anything I would ever do / say.

I love to integrate unique, tender quirks in them, to make them multi-faceted as opposed to one dimensional slimes. In my first fantasy novel, my antagonist had witnessed his father killing his mother as a child. His mother had raised homing pigeons, and she'd always told her son stories about birds. One of the stories was that doves were the spirits of people wrongly killed. So when she died a violent death, he started to collect doves—by the hundreds—and care for them, thinking surely one of them was his mother’s spirit. He did it even as a grown man.

It made for a wonderful contradiction and a helpful subplot, because it intrigued the heroine to the point that she trusted him more than she should have. Having been beaten and abused by his father, that antagonist had a very dark and violent side. But then there was this unexpected soft side in his tenderness toward the doves that provided a human quality which otherwise wouldn’t have been there.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

hmm. i don't know that mine are all that wild and crazy. but i did have a heroine in class with a guy who she had a crush on who started undressing a bit (nothing racy, tho). very interested scene...b/c the hero was the teacher! Yes, i had to work through the ethical implications of such a romance.... :)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Hey, maybe I should start writing fiction; this sounds fun! I would probably have charcters that are nice in ways I'm not, like they keep their mouths shut instead of "smarking" off. Oh, I made a new word!

T. Anne said...

My new MC for the YA series I'm writing accidentally broke her arch rival's leg by falling on her. And you know what? That rival still made it onto the squad broken leg and all ;) I really love my new MC, even if her clumsiness is potentially lethal.

Jessica said...

Hi Genny,
I agree. :-)

Jessica said...

Janna,
Me too! LOL It's wonderful to get all the thrill but none of the danger *grin*

Jessica said...

Work it, Stephanie! LOL!

Jessica said...

Explore your adventurous side, Susan. LOL! You write suspense, right? Your villains can have some crazy quirks I bet. LOL

Jessica said...

Anita,
That's SO interesting. Are these the books based in colonial times? Your first ones that I haven't gotten to read? *pout*
So does the heroine eventually redeem the villain or does he get worse?

Jessica said...

Eeek! Jeannie, are you sure that's not racy? LOL!!! Sounds like it.
Poor teacher... :-)

Jessica said...

Great new word Jeanette! I like it. Smarking off. Hmmmm... LOL Writing fiction is hard, but it's also a lot of fun!

Jessica said...

Ouch, T. Anne. I bet your MC felt so bad, even though it's her rival. Can you imagine? That could really happen too. *cringing*

Stephanie said...

My main character in A Bitch Named Karma, is so sassy! She says every single thing that's on her mind...no cares, no worries...no filter for her thoughts. Sometimes I wish I could be like that...but ultimately I care too much about hurting people's feelings and what people think about me. LOL! Sometimes she's crass and unladylike with her statements, but she comes out with some good stuff!!

Dara said...

I would have to say the wildest thing a character has ever done (so far) is freezing people to death with the touch of her hand and her breath. :P

Not something I could ever imagine doing myself!

Of course, I'm still developing her character, especially her human side, and though she's very different than me, she has traits that I could see myself struggling to overcome (vanity, shallowness, selfishness, etc). It'll be interesting to see how she develops over the course of the book.

Jessica said...

Oooh, Stephanie, that sounds just like someone I like to read!!! LOL And what a title. Sounds like it fits with the character? :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Dara,
The freezing thing is super interesting. I hope you have fun developing her. :-)

Keli Gwyn said...

Jessica, my heroine pulled a gun on an outlaw, something she said she would never do--and something I can't imagine doing. But when someone she loved was in danger, she found strength she didn't know she had.

Jessica said...

Those are the best scenes. I can't stand in movies where a heroine has the gun and the villain takes it from her just be grabbing it. Your heroine sounds very brave. I hope I could do that too.
I didn't realize you'd written a western. :-)

JennyMac said...

Just popping by and loved your question. One of my characters was confronted by the wife of someone she was dating...with out knowing he was married. She worked with the wife to set him up. Based loosely on something I actually know that happened to a girlfriend.

Jessica said...

Jenny, that sounds like exactly what that husband deserves! LOL That sneaky.... grrr.

Thanks for commenting!

Jill Kemerer said...

My heroes and heroines say exactly what's on their mind, while I smolder internally, trying to come up with the perfect thing to say.

Jessica said...

Hahaa! Jill, that's funny. It takes me a few days to think up a good response and by then it's too late. :-)

Terresa said...

My characters have talked to animals. And yes, I've done it, too. ;)

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

The main character of my WIP definitely says and does a lot of things that I wouldn't ever dream of doing. I think that is the fun of writing her though;)

Danyelle said...

Most of the things my characters do, by physical law, I wouldn't be able to. I do, however, love some of my characters' ability to be extremely assertive in speaking their minds. I would love to not be so shy!

Jessica said...

Hahaa! But Terresa, have they talked back to you? LOL

Jessica said...

Yep Kate. I agree. I have one character like me. She's the least fun. LOL

Jessica said...

Danyelle, you're shy? Really? :-) I wouldn't have guessed it, but if you feed me some cookies I'll pretend to believe it. LOL!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

My happy-go-lucky goody-two-shoes character doesn't say a bad word throughout most of my story but when she finally does say a bad word every beta reader has noticed. That means she means it. lol.

Jessica said...

Haha! She does mean it, doesn't she. That's funny. :-)

Angela said...

I love letting my characters do and say the stuff that I only think of in hindsight. It's like getting it right the first time!

Jessica said...

LOL Angela. Good way to put it. So do you think our characters are the smarters selves of us? LOL (if that made sense *cringe*)

Kathryn Magendie said...

In my novel, things are pretty tame, I guess...mostly --oh wait, I forgot about Aunt Ruby and Mee Maw and Katie Ivene - they ain't tame *laugh*!

But, in my short stories, I sometimes get a little darker -- so characters have done things I'd not do....

One character, Adyna, though, makes me laugh -she's very disturbed -- she shaved half a dog's fur off to get even with a neighbor, she sprays her telephone with lysol and wipes it with a alcohol several times after every call - which she doesn't like to get phone calls, since when she was a child her pet bunny chewed an electrical cord and was burned to a crisp - so anything with cords upsets her....and....and...well, she's just strange! *laugh*

but sometimes I'll wish I were more like a character - I wish I were more like Virginia Kate! I love her....want to be her....

ElanaJ said...

Hmm, one of my MC's throws herself off a tall building. Really she does. I'm terrified of heights. Like majorly.

Caryn Caldwell said...

I agree. I constantly think of things I *should* have said long after the fact, but with writing I get to have my characters say all the perfect zingers at the perfect time. And if they don't, then it's for a reason, and it's MY choice. :-D

Jessica said...

Kathryn,
I have a feeling VK is like you, don't worry. :-) As for Adyna, sheesh, that is very odd. Do you pull her off as a protag or an antag?

Jessica said...

LOL Elana! So you "conquered" your fear through your character? :-) Maybe it was a subconscious thing...

Jessica said...

Caryn,
That is the nice thing about writing. :-) We're in total control. How perfect. LOL

Pen Pen said...

I had a character in a short story that did heroine.I've made mistakes in life, but not drugs :)
That was difficult to put out there cuz the short story won a lit prize at my private Baptist University and I had to read it in front of everybody at a ceremony...after that-Everybody asked if it was based on my real experience. I'm sure you've had some type of experience like that since u write Inspirational Romance--People will read into writing like it's a diary, so you have to be careful and remind people that it's fiction-with-of course-SOME real life influences, but still fiction-ur not using ur book as a confessional :) Do u experience that?!
For a long time, I didn't touch certain subjects and such because it just wasn't "pleasing to God" in my mind, but the 'Bible' approaches difficult subjects and stuff, so I felt as long as my over all message was good and "right", then I can write about difficult subjects. My family is always wanting me to write something overtly Christian, but I just don't feel the direct path is mine in writing...I want to write about all types of things-there's always a search in my writing for answers and symbols of God-also references to scripture or other spiritual writing...I dunno. My mom says I think too liberally to be a Christian sometimes...hmm...
Sorry! I started babbling on! I probably made no sense :)

Jessica said...

What?! I think Christianity is one of the most common sense, logical, literal religions there are! Not sure what your mom means. LOL

Everyone has their own path in writing. Chronicles of Narnia is not overtly Christian, and yet, it is.
But you should write what is right for you, and if you want to please God, then what you write will be of Him, no matter what others say.
I didn't realize you'd been raised up Baptist. I was Baptist for a while in my teens, so I feel some of your dilemma.

As for real life, well, not too many people have read my fiction besides other writers, but yeah, I'm always afraid others will think what I wrote is something I experienced. LOL That must've been so weird for you with the drug story. LOL