Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Where The Heck Do Writers Find Their Characters?


Does that title seem naive—overly simplistic—maybe, misdirected?

Well, anyway, some characters are found in history—some are borrowed from history—some are family or friends—some, somewhat disguised family or friends

Then there are the characters composed from bits of all those sources.

And, while there’s nothing wrong with “borrowing” characters or parts of them (as long as due consideration is given to “making them ‘come to life’ in the plot”), there are many characters out there that are new creations.

Perhaps I should quote a bit of my previous post, What’s The Relationship Between A Writer & Their Characters?:

“…writers have characters. Where do writers get those characters? Why do so many writers talk about their characters as if they were real? And, even more amazing, how in the world could an otherwise rational writer say, with heart-felt conviction, that one of their characters made them change what they intended to write? If you’re not a writer and don’t know anything about writers, you’ll either have to take my word that writers really think their characters can change their minds or do a bit of Googling

Later in that post I say:

“…writers have to struggle with characters to create what we read. They don’t just get born with some weird talent to create fiction that seems real—they work very hard at it, sometimes fight with their characters, usually have to change and grow personally because the characters are spookily right.”

And, as a teaser to what happens in the video I’m going to share, here’s a bit more from that post:

“How does a serious writer live anything like a normal life when things like this are going on in their heads? Some don’t live anything like a normal life. Some ‘control’ the effects of relating to their characters with drugs. Some take refuge in spiritual or psychological realms that ‘explain’ the process. Some create brilliantly for a short time then flame out like a meteor

Two other posts that support my using the video below are Very Special Characters and Very Special Characters ~ Revisited.

There’s one other idea about characters that I can understand but don’t necessarily agree with—all the author’s characters are parts of themselves

The woman in the video is Nina Conti, actress, comedian and ventriloquist.

If showing you a ventriloquist seems like a big stretch, please consider that they also create characters ( unkindly called dummies :-)

And, after watching Nina perform, I’m sure we could meet and discuss character-creation as fellow artists.

Since I’m a writer, I know how strange the relationship with my characters can be

And, if you find Nina’s relationship with her character in the video interesting, you can explore her absolutely surreal relationship with her many other characters in the documentary-story, Her Master’s Voice.

So, I hope you’re as shocked as I was by the relationship between Nina and her monkey in this video and, if you’re a writer, please let me know in the Comments if the video strikes a chord with you relating to your work to make characters Real

[Alert: this video does contain a bit of Strong Language...]


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6 responses to “Where The Heck Do Writers Find Their Characters?

  1. Susan Drury January 4, 2013 at 10:46 am

    She is good! Haven’t watched a good one since Ed Sullivan show stopped and Sherry Lewis and Lambchops stopped (the daughter is now performing with Lambchops I’ve read). Anyways, reminds me of when young children (people of all ages?) have a favorite stuffed toy that has a character created to meet some need.

    I think, as a writer, one has to have the kind of relationship Nina has with Monkey in order to make the character a believable person with thoughts, habits, growth consistent with the traits of that character. We know that Monkey is a stuffed object, but as we watch Nina, Monkey is alive to us and the scenarios used (dog taking Monkey) are ‘believed’ by us.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 4, 2013 at 10:52 am

      Susan,

      Thanks for that reference to how kids invest their toys with personalities :-)

      Perhaps that could be a “hook” to encourage children to write?

      And, also, a big Yes to your reminding us that the key is the Relationship between the writer and their characters is what brings them to Life :-)

      Like

      • Susan Drury January 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

        A hook to encourage children to write. That’s an interesting thought and got me thinking. In early grades, most writing seems to be concentrated on making a proper sentence, even just learning how to print or write letters. (although I’ve read that cursive writing in some curriculums are no longer being taught freeing up more time for other subjects). I was creative writing at a young age from an inner drive and influenced by British mysteries and horse stories for young people, but the first and only creative writing class in the curriculum was offered in last year of high school. (The teacher thought I was ‘stealing’ scenes from books.) I think my love of words was also influenced by having to memorize poems as early as grade 4. That’s no longer part of the curriculum. We will soon have a generation, if not now, who are word illiterate.

        Like

        • Alexander M Zoltai January 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm

          All I can saw about a generation of illiterates is I hope they will suffer in ways that urge them to raise a generation with literacy

          Also, while seeing the need to teach sentence-mechanics, etc., I believe children should be urged to write before that, with parents as “editors”—perish the thought that learning the mechanics first stunts the creativity, eh?

          Like

          • Susan Drury January 6, 2013 at 11:46 pm

            Well, they do say that children are most creative before they enter school. Makes me think about how children role play, pretend , etc. – lots of stories created. And nowadays they don’t even have to know how to write. Just speak into the computer and it’ll write for you. :)

            Like

            • Alexander M Zoltai January 7, 2013 at 1:57 am

              Yes, Susan, it’s sad how folks Undervalue children these days :-(

              Like

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