How Real Are Your Characters?

Besides the physical challenges of being a writer and the obvious release it gives any megalomaniac tendencies you might have, writing also challenges the psyche. As a prolific writer, you have written several stories—fiction, of course—with characters you have either modeled on real-life personalities or whom you have created completely out of nothing. Every writer does that. However, you want your characters to be as real as you can make them so you treat them like real people. You give them personalities and let them exercise free will. You develop them, give them words, then give them triumph or defeat. You make them rise to the heights of success of fall to the depths of despair. You are their god, their creator, and you can do whatever you want with them, including kill them, as many a famous writer has adviced. On another level, you might treat them as your contemporaries and hold

On another level, you might treat them as your contemporaries and hold conversation with them—what better way to develop dialogue, after all, than hold a real dialogue with characters? You argue, fight, wheedle, convince, threaten, compromise, order, intimidate, contradict, and defy them. Quite naturally, they will argue, fight, wheedle, convince, threaten, compromise, order, intimidate, contradict, and defy you in return.

You can share secrets with them, confide in them, become their best friend and confidante, even become their lover and share sweet, intimate, sensual discourse with them. You encourage them, motivate them, sometimes even chastise them. In some cases, you will have had enough of your characters after a single book and shut the voices between the covers. In other cases, you will be haunted by the voices. Your characters will not leave you alone. They will keep you awake with endless debates, wake you up in the middle of the night, interrupt your most intimate moments, join you in the shower, argue over every meal, make you miss appointments or your stop so you end up riding the bus farther than you want to or need to. They will distract you and preoccupy your mind so your tv shows go by without your knowing what happened, you completely forget what you went to the grocery for, and people look at you strangely because, yes, the worst has happened, you now talk to your characters aloud in public. In that case, congratulations! Your characters are as real as they can get. Time to break out the champagne. Oh, and don’t forget an extra glass for your favorite character.

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