As a fiction writer, developing the characters in my books is a journey into psychology, anatomy, and sometimes chemistry! Sheesh! I never thought I’d have to go back to science class to write a novel. But sometimes I do.
In my second book of The Irish Quilt Legacy, The Fabric of Faith, one of the characters suffers from post-partum depression. Though I never went through that with my two babies, I know friends who did. They were sad, quiet, withdrawn, and depressed. Yet I really never researched the “whys”—until I created a character, which is experiencing this debilitating condition.
What is going on in the body, mind, and soul of a person who is depressed? My research is giving me a measure of love and compassion that I wished I’d have shown to my friends when they were going through it. And the compassion for this condition will undoubtedly show up in my story.
The bottom line is, fictional characters need to be fully developed and not just stereotypes. They need to be relatable and have emotions and feelings that readers can really connect with. And they need to have likes and dislikes, quirks and mannerisms, fears and dreams, and thoughts. They need to worry and fret, desire and long, get angry and resentful, forgive and have faith, just real people. And they need to experience life similar to your readers, even if the character lives centuries apart from today’s readers. They have to make hard choices and face tough challenges and struggle with life. And they need to wrestle with issues of faith and God and eternity.
So as I develop each of my characters, I must fully engage with them and “know” them deep within their soul. I need to know their emotional makeup and the psychological quirks and the scars and the pain they’ve experienced. I need to know their physical assets and weaknesses, their fears and their dreams and their beliefs about God. Then they become real, and in that reality they can live their lives in the story.
How do you connect with the characters you create? I’d love to know!
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