Writing Q&A: Part Two
Well, I had a couple more questions on writing that I figured I’d take the time to answer. Mostly about character and story development, which, as many of you know, I love to talk about.
Q: How do you make your main character come alive in its own self, rather than a copy of yourself?
A: I love this question, because I personally think that issue is something every writer has to discover for himself. What makes your character unique? What makes them real, rather than a flat, two-dimensional object on a page? Giving your main character a stamp of uniqueness and originality is so hard to do, especially when you’re viewing things from the inside out.
I believe that, in every book or story you write, your main character should be autobiographical in some way. You have to relate to your main character. Even if you don’t think you have anything in common, go out of your way to think about possible similarities. Maybe, even if your circumstances are different, you have the same thoughts and motivations. You both want to be heard. You both need to be loved. You both react to situations in the same sort of manner. In some way or another, you have to feel like your main character is another part of yourself.
You may think I’m rather strange, for answering this way. After all, didn’t the question ask how to make the main character his/her own person, rather than a copy of the author? But I think that the heart of your story comes once you can discover how to take your own heartaches and dreams and passions and translate them into a unique, vibrant character. This doesn’t mean that every single story or book you read has to have the same exact characters with the same exact problems that you are facing, but instead should be a reflection on your life in some way. You don’t always feel or act the same. As a person, you are constantly growing and changing. Your writing style and characters should change right along with you.
So make your characters unique. Make them special. But make sure their heartbeat matches your own. Write a story with characters that you can relate to, and most likely your audience will feel that special connection, too!
Q: Do your characters ever “write themselves”? Do you ever feel like they are totally different people in the end than they are in the beginning?
A: Oh, absolutely! My personal approach to writing is “characters first, story second”. What I mean by that, is that I usually attack a story idea by focusing on a great concept for a character, than build a story around that. I’ll have an idea for a girl that such-and-such has happened to, and she feels this-or-that, and then [blank] happens to change her perspectives on things. So a lot of times, as I’m developing a character and trying to get to the heart of his or her issues, I’ll discover something new about them that I didn’t realize before! Writing fiction is a lot like making a friend, in a way. When you first meet a person, you don’t really know much about them, only the basics. But as time goes on, you start learning all kinds of interesting things and really getting to know that person. And even after you’ve been with them for years, you’re still finding out new things almost every day!
Q: Do you really have to know how a book is going to end before you even start it?
A: A lot of people hate the truthful answer to this which is: Yes. At least if you’re planning on publishing it. Because the truth is that most publishers require a full synopsis of a book before they will sign it. So even if you’ve already published one complete book, they will not sign a second until they know the full plot summary. How it starts, where it leads, and how it ends. Maybe not in microscopic detail, but at least the overarching picture. I know it’s hard for a lot of authors to decide on an ending in advance, because they want to “follow the story and see where it leads”. And I think you do have to do that, to some degree, when it comes to character development and scene placement. But before you can publish your book, you have to know what happens at the end. The aunt dies. Or the brother comes home. Or the fighting couple kiss and make up. And you have to know what needs to happen to get there, also. Yes, being a writer is a whole lot of work.
Q: Do you write by computer or by hand?
A: Oh, computer, definitely! 🙂 I’m actually really fast at typing (I can type like 80 words a minute), so it saves me so much time. I can’t imagine how long writing a novel would take by hand! Plus I have really, really bad handwriting…
Q: Why do so many people think that publishing with big companies costs money?
A: I think that there are probably a lot of shady agents out there that sometimes con people into giving them money and then never deliver on their promises. A lot of authors, young people especially, get really excited when they hear that an “agent” is interested in representing them, and fork over the money without thinking about it. DO NOT EVER GIVE AN AGENT MONEY UP FRONT!!! If he or she is a legitimate literary agent, they won’t ask for a penny until you receive your royalty check. The same goes with publishers. You should never have to pay a publisher a cent. THEY pay YOU.
Hope this helped!