When writing stories, the characters always come first for me. I’ll change their last name several times, I’ll forget why they’re saving the world in the first place and have to rewrite it, but I always remember the characters.
For me, there’s always a main character. They may be good, they may be evil, they may be somewhere in between, but the other characters exist in relation to them before they exist in relation to themselves.
For example, when we knew nothing about the Luke’s aunt and uncle in Episode IV, they were Luke’s Aunt and Uncle. They existed in relation to him, and then they gained their own complex characters over time. When we met Obi-Wan Kenobi, we knew he had a past, but first and foremost, he existed in relation to Luke Skywalker. That was why he was important to us first; because he was the crazy kid’s chaperone when Luke ran off to save the galaxy. Later, we saw his conflict, his emotions, his self-hatred.
First thing, though, he was a crazy old man.
Characters have to have reasons for what they do. Sometimes, they gain an entirely new backstory out of nowhere, and it makes their motivations so much clearer. When writing a story from first person POV, or third person POV, that person will likely not understand another person’s motivations until later, unless they know the person very well. That’s what’s nice about writing: it’s your first time meeting this character too, and by watching their behaviors, a backstory comes to mind.
One such difficult character for me was Elan Snyder. She showed up in my head one day, (I still remember the day,) threw herself lazily down on the couch, crossed her arms and said, “Well?” She just refused to leave.
First, I tried making her a happy character. She refused. It wasn’t in her to be like that. But it had been once. I could tell. She’d been very happy at one time, successful, in love with life, and something happened to make her fall out. That was when her accident came to mind. Elan suddenly became a cripple, the brilliantly independent girl became helpless, angry, off-putting–the change in character dynamic was astounding! Suddenly, she was intriguing, with a dark past, an angry loneliness, hidden righteousness, and a self-hatred and doubt that was naturally Elan, my girl, beautiful and broken.
Then, a boy knocked politely on the study door of my mind, and just stood there awkwardly. He told me he knew I was looking for a male main character. He told me his name was Randal, and then asked me what I was going to do.
I knew then, that Randal was Elan’s perfect balance. He was the guy I’d been looking for. Elan could exist in relation to him, and I could hide her backstory in little hints dropped here and there. I needed him to have motivation and darkness, and gradually, I discovered his case of self-doubt, pessimism and hidden emotion. He was perfect, the innocent new eyes I could turn on this world of intrigue. He was the understanding boy who could teach Elan to grow.
The plot came in leaps and bounds, but the characters were always there. I’ve never been able to plot out the story without the characters existing first, because their decisions are what shape the world.
That’s my rant for today. I’ll post a rant about strong female characters in a few days.
‘Bye guys! God bless.