Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce October 9, 2011 - 8:10am

My attitude to characters float somewhere between invisible friends and secondary personalities. What are yours?

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading October 9, 2011 - 8:39am

Vehicles for exploring conflicting values.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 9, 2011 - 10:00am

like flies, I can rip the wings off and see how they twitch.

Waterhouse's picture
Waterhouse from Columbus is reading Bullet Park, John Cheever October 9, 2011 - 10:28am

Vehicles for exploring conflicting values.

 

Largely this for me in a good number of things I have written.

I also use them for experimentation, putting personality X in situation Y, or exploring the underlying themes of various myths through a modern context (and not in a slavish retelling, sort of more in the way the author of the 13th century narrative poem Sir Orfeo treated the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.)

Characters for me are vehicles for understanding; understanding things within myself, or larger things outside myself.

.'s picture
. October 9, 2011 - 12:35pm

My main characters are usually apathetic and end up doing something crazy. I can't write anything without sex, drugs or violence. It just happens. 

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones October 9, 2011 - 12:37pm

i feel like im channeling people. because i think of a name first... but its more like the name comes to me... and then a situation comes to me, and its kind of like that person in my head tells me how they would handle it. thats what  i write

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 9, 2011 - 12:53pm

I guess my go-to characters are usually me as a kid, or me as an old man, or me with a really cool car or something along those lines. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. There are plenty of me's that are despicable and do things I don't understand, so at least it stays interesting.

Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce October 10, 2011 - 9:21am

@Renfield, you're funny ^w^

N.L. Vaught's picture
N.L. Vaught from Charlotte, NC is reading All sorts October 10, 2011 - 9:23am

Same. Extensions of myself.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words October 10, 2011 - 10:28am

as a friend of mine once put it, "they are your children, and you have to cut off their fingers."

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 10, 2011 - 8:31pm

It depends on the project and the individual character--in my current project, I would say the female lead is a combination of parts of myself, a woman I would like to be, and even a little of a woman I am afraid of becoming. The male lead, on the other hand, is like a dear friend, a child of mine, a "vehicle for exploring conflicting values" (well put) and many other things. Some of the secondary characters are just expressions of certain things, and some are friends.

Also, this: 

"they are your children, and you have to cut off their fingers."

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 10, 2011 - 8:33pm

To add, I would say my reaction to this:

like flies, I can rip the wings off and see how they twitch.

Is telling. I was horrified by this, almost as though we were talking about "real people". My characters are very real to me.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 10, 2011 - 8:58pm

Horrified? Mischieviously sardonic in intent though. Going back to characters as 'tools', they are a way to inflict your reader with the emotion and cognitive dissonance that moves the reader's heart cockles in some way, leaving a mark on them. You play with these little pawn pieces and through them you are messing with a real human being's mind. It's very manipulative, unsettling, and beautiful to think about. I had to look up this Vonnegut quote, which is sort of the basis of this storytelling philosophy:

Be a sadist.  No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones October 10, 2011 - 9:07pm

in the words of tommy lee jones (who's a writer, believe it or not) sometimes you have to kill a few puppies.

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club October 10, 2011 - 9:21pm

What if your characters are historical figures, say in a historical-fiction story.  Is it acceptable to change the behavior they're known for?

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 10, 2011 - 9:28pm

What if your characters are historical figures, say in a historical-fiction story.  Is it acceptable to change the behavior they're known for?

I guess it depends. It seems like murky (and dangerous) waters. I am a huge Doctor Who fan, and of course, they play with this a lot, but it's supposed to be fun, quirky sci-fi. I would imagine if it is a serious historical fiction piece you have to be more careful about it...

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 10, 2011 - 9:32pm

@Renfield--that is not to say that nothing terrible happens to my characters. Most of my work is about terrible things happening to people--I think my biggest challenge as a writer is telling "the truth" and avoiding that happy ending that can only come when nothing much of importance happens. 

But I like how you said it "manipulative, unsettling, and beautiful". That really hits it on the head. I do find myself emotional and moody when I write the darker parts of my stories--but why bother writing fiction if you are going to write about rainbows and butterflies all day?

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 10, 2011 - 9:37pm

It sort of depends on whether I'm writing in first or third person. If it's in first person, I feel like I'm a method actor and sort of "become" the character while I'm writing the book. If it's third person, I'm much more distant from the protagonist, and I can allow myself to write in the same style that I've used in previous third person books. But with first person books, the protagonist of one book needs to sound different from the protagonist of another book.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 10, 2011 - 9:47pm


What if your characters are historical figures, say in a historical-fiction story.  Is it acceptable to change the behavior they're known for?

 

Have you read that there T.C. Boyle? One of the greatest literary minds today imho, and he sort of twists historical figures in such a way.