When it comes to writing characters, I follow certain belief systems. First of all I consider myself moderately well read. I’ve tried to educate myself in various world religions, economic systems, histories, mythologies and culture. I always attempt to bring a ring of truth to every single character I create, from the strong protagonist to the lowly cab drive in one scene. It’s the difference between good prose and great prose in my opinion.
I know others who are great at the three act structure and meticulously map out scenes, rising and falling tension, allegory, metaphor and theme. They can tell you the beats of a story, and the precise way each scene must end to create the perfect transition.
Every single one of those things are critical to a successful story. And for me I do some well, and some I struggle to get right. Every time I write something new, I find these things are a little smoother, a little more part of my organic process.
But they are never easy.
Now characters, here is my super power. Oh, I’m sure there are people who write better characters than me, and I’m sure you could show me examples of where I’ve written flat, uninteresting characters, but this is where I sing.
The most common comment I get after “wait, a het guy wrote a really good book about a lesbian without being a jerk”, is how emotionally powerful my characters and stories are. I have put serious thought into why this is, and it comes down to what I absolutely love about other authors.
I fall in love with characters first. Then I want to see what happens to them. I want to follow along with them and experience what they experience. That’s the heart of the game for me. I want complexity and empathy. I want to see them struggle with hard decisions and thrill with them when they triumph. I love Superman when he’s emotionally connected like this scene.
He’s the most powerful person on the planet and the only thing he uses to save the day is be there, listen with an open heart (okay, use his laser vision, go read it) and be emotionally engaged.
That is when writing is at its best, at least as far as I’m concerned.
Which brings me around to the serial I’m hoping is keeping you folks entertained: Dear Father Mulcahy. The Cleric Journal. The tales of Useless Lump.
In the beginning the serial is funny story of a bumbling guy who is so naive that he doesn’t understand even the most basic things about human behavior. I have read those first 7 entries a few times at cons, and I always get laughs. That’s exactly what I wanted when I wrote it.
But as this serial goes on, the silly morphs over time to be more introspective, more mature. The character has started to grow up over the course of the first four books, evolving into a better version of himself. Or at least that’s what I hope I’m doing.
The comments I have received on this agree with my thinking, so that’s good.
If you are new here, I started writing this serial on August 4th, 2015. I’ve posted two hundred and fifty four individual entries, once a day, with a total word count so far in excess of 257k words.
I’ve broken them into 4 books and hope to publish them individually for those who want them in a compact format, which also allows me a chance to tweak a few things.
See I’m pantsing this thing. I sit down to write each day with a vague idea what I want to do, and I see where the muse takes me. This is TOTALLY different from how I write the Sarah Beauhall books. And it’s a fun experiment.
It will be interesting to see how far and how long this goes.