I’ve often heard it said that to truly write an emotion well you must experience it. While there is some truth in that, I’ve found that an understanding of love can come from an experience with longing and desire. It may not produce the same product as an experience with love might, but the two are comparable to each other in many ways.
So, it may help to feel what you want your character to feel, but it is not essential to do so. However, I would like to speak on reverse osmosis. By default our characters get a part of us, they become something that we are and they are our creations, however, often what we put into them are ideas from ourselves that become convictions for the characters. Sometimes I think we deprive ourselves of some things because our characters possess them and we do not.
There are certain attribute which we imbue to our characters, but there are certain ones which we would do well to learn from them. It’s sad that we devote the majority of our time as writers building the integrity of our characters at the expense of our own. We waste our most sound logic, deduction, and depth of feeling on intangible imaginations.
Become Your Character:
I asked my brother a day or so ago to switch perspectives in an argument. I depicted the persona he needed to assume to feel what the other side felt and yet, though he knew what the other side was facing, he did not become the other side. Thus he offered the exact same argument as before. He couldn’t understand the reasoning behind the opposing side because he did not make an effort to understand.
You want to write well. You want to portray characters correctly. It all starts with you. What kind of character are you? What do you believe in? What is right and what is wrong? What will you stand for upon conviction and never waver?
If you don’t know who you are, then your characters are all of you that you will ever be.
You can’t lose yourself to your stories. If you do, there is only one option, diving in to find yourself again. You have to become the characters you worked so diligently to give the best of you. Now they are you and you are nothing. There is a fine line between characters becoming a part of you, and you become part of your characters. From the start you need to understand who is the creator and who is the created, upon that understanding you need to know what’s best for yourself first before knowing how to run anyone else’s life.
Stories Are Not Real!
The important thing to remember about stories and characters is that stories do not occur in the universe. We borrow from real life and events in the physical universe to create our stories, but the stories themselves are not real or physical. When writing fantasy we are automatically writing fiction: things that don’t exist. With that in mind, you are the only thing in your story that exists. Keep it that way. You exist, don’t lose that by becoming your story, however, if the deed is done, the only salvation to rescue yourself is to live your story.
Stay real. Create your own character first: who you are, what you believe in, your message and purpose. Only then can you be safe from losing yourself, and only then will your characters be unique and know what they believe in.
You Need To Become Your Characters!
Now for the tricky part. Even in retaining your own integrity from your characters and your story, you still imbue the people you create with things you don’t even believe or understand. You need to become the other side to understand the other side, but in understanding, you must make sure you don’t forget what you believed in to begin with and why you believed it. If it takes becoming your characters to learn what they know, then it must be done.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist