Pretty sure I’ve done something like this before. Have I given you guys my recent thoughts on character development? No? I guess it’s time to do that, then.
Since I started in on writing in earnest I’ve written quite a few short stories. I won’t say that they’re all spectacular, but I’m pretty sure they’re not terrible.
One of the key things that I always, without fail, do for my characters is let them tell themselves. A character, when allowed to grow to h/er full extent, is a versatile thing. While many authors use characters to tell a story, I like to use stories to tell characters. For me, nothing is as important as the characters in a work. Anyone who has ever asked me how I write I answer pretty much the same way– I let my characters tell the story. All I do is write what they would say.
Probably the best example I have of that in my work is dialogue. Any of my dialogue. In my head the process is something like:
Okay, the main character just took a bolt to the shoulder. She isn’t feeling very good right now. It chipped a bone so she is in a lot of pain, but her basic personality is that she’s tougher than steel, so not only is she not going to say anything, she’s not going to give her opponent the satisfaction of hearing her cry out, either. Her opponent, though, is naturally a bit of a braggart and maybe a little sadistic. The fact that she doesn’t say anything will irk him, the fact that she isn’t screaming will make him angrier. So he’s going to taunt her, and she is going to ignore it. Maybe only to a point, but at first at least she is going to ignore it.
Then I start thinking about what to DO with the actual dialogue. Well, actually this is a serious exaggeration. I almost never think this hard about what I’m going to have my characters say simply because to do that would imply that I think about the plot that I’m coming up with at the moment– as I’m writing it, and really I barely ever do any conscious thinking about that. When I write my stories they’re almost entirely born of my subconscious. I don’t have to think about the plot or about the other things that my characters become involved in because for the sake of argument I might say that I AM my characters. I just do what I would do in their situation, with their baggage and life story. I become that character.
I’m a shapeshifter, so that’s not that difficult. It’s like playing a role, like putting myself in their shoes and looking at the world through their eyes.
In that way I guess I feel like a cheater. So many really good authors think really hard about what they put into their stories, work at it in their own way until they might not even like their stories anymore, and here I am just slapping words on a page, smiling all the while and (apparently!) making good art. Well then.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t been reaching out to publishers for a while now, maybe that’s my big block. I feel like my work is good, and I feel like people enjoy it, but I feel like I’m cheating because even though the stories and plots and things that I come up with are my own, they are not things that I think that I can sell in good conscience, because if it comes right down to it I’m pretty sure that it MUST be a form of cheating, like I’m gaming the system by getting these stories down and out of my head. Sure I do more editing than I used to do, and my stories come out under a little more scrutiny, but it can’t be right that I just intuit it all!
Anyway, with that in mind, I tend not to think too hard about my characters because they’re self-explanatory. Through their actions they are who they are, and I might know a few things about their inner desires and the way that they’ll react in a given situation, but there’s very little that I can actually script for them. Real life isn’t scripted! Stories are like real life!
Well, okay, that last bit is half a lie. Stories aren’t completely like real life, and a LOT of the stories I write don’t make perfect sense. In fact, reading back over some of my earlier ones, a lot of them have some continuity and plot errors! Now, I’ll never claim to be the best at what I do. There are always authors who are better than you– just like in any field that you could care to name. There is always someone who is better at writing than you are and that’s simply because when it comes right down to it there are WAY too many people out there with WAY too much talent. I could tell you the flaws with any of the stories I’ve written! Pipes should have been in third person, Black Feathers, White Heart could have been shorter and the fight less anti-climactic, Runtime needed to be cut down a little bit as well, and Core had some innovative but confusing dialogue elements that could have been tweaked.
In Pipes there are a lot of different explanations for everything that happened but they’re ALL hidden.
In Core, the characters take a little while to understand.
In Runtime, it takes a little too long to get going and in the end the virtual reality plays too little a part. A few scenes in it could be cut out entirely.
Red Ribbons was downright depressing. Nothing wrong with it as a story– mayhap a little confusing. But it was depressing in tone, even if the message at the end was important.
(Actually, looking back, of all four of them Red Ribbons was probably the best written.)
I don’t know where I’m going with that. All of my stories have well developed characters. They all feel beautiful. My stories are like my babies, and one of these days I’m going to push them into growth. Not today, but one of these days.
And I think it’s about time I got published at a magazine, so there’s that. I have a surprising number of good stories that I haven’t put up on the blog. Even ones I have already put up on the blog could be edited to perfection and submitted for publishing.
Truthfully, the idea of someone reading through my work is frightening. But there it is.
That’s all I got, guys.