So I’m writing this up while sitting at my desk at work…. which is why this will start out so plain, but I’ll add pics when I get home. My life is madness, and writing for me has come to an abrupt halt. I do have snippets of time to write here and there, but it’s because of my characters that I can’t.
Characters are the heart and soul of any story. Whether they be a human, an animal, or a talking object, without characters, all your doing is compiling a list or non-fiction. Even then, non-fiction often has characters! Characters breath life and purpose into a story, giving it direction, emotion, and reaction.
Because characters provide the pivot point for works of fiction, I believe that their integrity is essential. I’ve always gone a bit crazy with my casts, building way too many characters to manage, which has forced me to write up family trees etc. Keeping track of characters appearance, backstories, and families is only the first part. For the Kiya Trilogy I had wrote a family tree with descriptions of each character beside. For my Fairytale Galaxy Chronicles I have a massive excel spreadsheet with several pages, one for each of the seven books.
But the most important part is getting to know the characters. It’s this step that has prevented me from writing much lately. I love to spend time with my characters, getting my head-space into theirs. Whether it’s while listening to music while going for a walk, or driving, putting myself into the character’s place to discover how they want their story told, how they would react to situations and people around them, makes a story authentic.
Stories need these authentic characters, flaws and all, without political agendas, because real people are that way. Think about the people you know, even yourself, and no one is perfect. No one does anything exactly how they should, our how you would. Take Kiya for example; she makes reckless decisions, but I took the time to get to know her and understood her drive and everything she did was out of love for her family to the point of being self-deprecating. But also, all characters come from a place of selfishness, just like all humans do. It’s that inward perspective that drives all of us, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but understanding that will help us to see the perspectives needed for the characters. What do they see, how do they perceive it, how do their values, the way they were raised, their beliefs, cultural customs and norms, affect how they react or even don’t react. It’s up to you, the writer, to get that head-space on, to take the time to get out of your bubble and into the character’s. It’s always clear when an author inserts themselves into a narrative, it happens when you suddenly feel forced out of the story. None of us want that. And sometimes, a character does something that makes us uncomfortable, and that’s okay, because that means you’re making them real.
So, take your time to understand who you are writing about. Your readers will love the story more for it.
Katie Teller aka Katie Hamstead is a writer of NA fiction. Her debut, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, has sold more than 100,000 copies. You can find out more about Katie, the Kiya trilogy, and her other books on twitter, facebook, instagram or at her own blog.
***Check out her Pitching comp here or on twitter under #SonofaPitch