Lucy Mitchell informs us how to survive with too many fictional characters living in our heads. Thanks, Lucy.
It’s not easy being a writer. We find ourselves drawn to tweed based outfits, berets, Twitter, book shops and attractive notebooks. We stare into space a lot, walk around with pencils permanently tucked behind our ears, get excited over word counts, cover our walls in post it notes and lose ourselves while reading books.
One of the many problems we face is that our fictional characters can multiply inside our head at an alarming rate. Writers often talk about too having many new story ideas but for some of us (me included) it’s too many new characters.
Once a writer has caught the writing bug; written several stories, have a story they are working on and be entertaining a few new story ideas on the side, their head can sound more like a railway station at rush hour.
Head overcrowding is not the only issue, fictional characters can also be noisy, disruptive and demanding. Some fictional characters will sit quietly and await their turn but some (you know the characters I am talking about) will make getting your full attention their main focus in life.
Don’t we all wish sometimes we could just tell the truth instead of juggling tactfully around saying what the other one would like to hear? Let me give you a few examples.
Imagine, a hair salon, somewhere in a big city… the walls are covered with breathtaking hairstyles on equally breathtaking people, the hairstylist expects his next appointment.
A customer enters and points to one of the pictures on the wall, telling the hairdresser: “I want exactly that hairstyle here.”
Now, what does the hairstylist want to say? “Well, I’m afraid, that is a misunderstanding. See, this is a professional model, a really beautiful human being. Whereas you are a caprice of nature… barely to look at.”
What does the stylist say eventually? “Aaawww. What an excellent choice. That cut will frame your face wonderfully. I’m convinced it will look splendidly on you.”
Or, let’s have a look at another example:
Parents are invited to a parent’s conference day, and they’re meeting their kids’ teacher.
Imagine what the teacher would like to say: “Ah, yes. Your son Willy. A complete idiot. About as intelligent as six feet of dirt track… I’m surprised how this child finds the door in the morning to leave the house. My advice to you: set him free; start from scratch.”
What does he say? “Your son. He is intelligent but does have a few difficulties to focus and concentrate. There are practices and exercises to improve that. But I’m convinced the older he gets, the easier it will be for him…”
Or, how do you tell parents that their child is not the cutest on earth? Ask them for a picture. Then you study it for a few minutes and say: “Aha… hmm… you know…. are you sure that this is indeed the face?”
Of course, our society does not accept the naked truth. We all know words can hurt, and we don’t want to hurt people, nor do we want to be hurt. That’s when our ability to successfully veil our replies in conversations, create our answers in a way to compliment the other person, and hide what we really think.
At this point, I admit, it is a relief at times, to use my characters to speak what ‘they’ think, and of course, use them to write what I think. I rarely refer to a particular person or situation. But I permit my characters at times, to be as outspoken, open, bold, and sometimes rude, as I would never dare to be in public.
At times I wonder, if crime authors use their books to ‘kill people’ they don’t like in real life.
What would you permit your character to do what you cannot do or say in your real life? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious.
Thank you very much, K.M. Weiland, for this very interesting POV on POV Extra Characters! I really appreciate the article.
on Helping Writers become Authors:
Sooner or later, most authors find the constraints of POV frustrating. It can be difficult to observe the strictures of a tight POV while still showing readers all of a scene’s necessary information. Seemingly, one of the easiest ways around this problem is to simply add a new POV from a character who is able to share the information you want to convey.
However, it’s always wise to think twice before adding another POV character.
Anne R. Allen informs us on her blog about four newbie writer mistakes that can derail a great book idea. Thanks for your information on that, Anne.
You’ve got a fantastic idea for a novel. It’s been hanging around for quite a while, knocking inside your noggin. The idea keeps saying, “Let me out! Release me! Put me in a book!”
Maybe there’s a scene in your head that plays like a video, with every detail of the setting right there, as if it’s on a screen. You know those characters. They’re like real people to you.
But you’ve never had the time to write it all down.
Now you do.
So here you are, finally banging out that scene. And another. And pretty soon you’ve written 10,000, maybe 15,000 words of brilliant, deathless prose. It almost wrote itself. Wow. That was almost too easy.
It IS brilliant, isn’t it?
Well, maybe not. Maybe what’s on the page isn’t quite as good it seemed when you were in the zone.
In fact, it could be terrible. What if you have no talent for writing at all? Maybe you should be in the living room doing that kitten jigsaw puzzle with Grandma instead. How do you know if you’re any good?
You’ll have to ask somebody knowledgeable. Like a published author.
And this — this is when you fall down the rabbit hole.
Thanks so much for this very educational and supportive article on your blog Blonde Write More, on how to survive deleting characters. So far I haven’t had to do that yet – but I admit, I had to kill one of mine which nearly broke my heart.
Writing the death of a much-loved character can be demanding and can leave you emotionally wiped out.
Did you know that there is another literary situation which can be just as challenging and one which can cast a nasty gloom over your writing life – deleting a character from your story.
I am not talking about deleting a random minor character; a fictional person who you created one day after too much coffee and inserted into the middle of your novel, just to beef it out (technical literary term) and then deleted them the following day after realising your stupidity. *Sigh*
No. I am talking about those major changes to a draft which result in you deciding to get rid of a key character.
I guarantee this fictional person will have been with you since the start of your story and someone who you have history with. You and this character will have been through some stuff; your rocky first draft, that dreadful second draft which no one liked, your third draft where you felt all hope was lost and the fourth draft which resulted in you wondering why the hell you had ever taken up writing.
You and this character will have shared story in-jokes. They will have been there for you during the bad times. You know them inside out and they are like a good friend.
Today I was thinking about checking out my ‘Council Of Twelve’ characters a bit more carefully and more in detail. But where to start? (I’m not necessarily talking about the names). I have twelve amazing personalities. But one blog post about the characteristics of a dozen very unique natures would end up in me still typing next Thursday and you reading until Christmas. I tried to limit the number of my Council of Twelve members to the original four. and had to re-phrase my question: “What character has which character?” Who is Raphael, how is he? How different is he from, let’s say, Gabriel. What are their characteristics based on?
The last question was quite easy to answer, considering I’m a woman… The Zodiac signs!
Yeah – great!
The four oldest members of ‘The Council Of Twelve’ were not born, they were created. Therefore, they don’t have a Zodiac sign.
With a huge sigh, I left the Astrology up to the stars and tried to find out my own characteristics. How can I write about other characters if I don’t even understand my types of characteristics in a professional way?
And there, the first giggles started already. I started at the basics… how did personality, characteristics, and psychology even develop? Where did I start? I’m telling you, I had a good time starting with Hippocrates and his four-temperament-theory.
The four temperament theory is a proto-psychological theory which suggests that there are four fundamental personality types: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Most formulations include the possibility of mixtures among the types where an individual’s personality types overlap, and they share two or more temperaments. The Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) described the four temperaments as part of the ancient medical concept of humorism that four bodily fluids affect human personality traits and behaviors. Modern medical science does not define a fixed relationship between internal secretions and personality, although some psychological personality type systems use categories similar to the Greek temperaments. (Source, Wikipedia)
After the history of Hippocrates and the blood-related psychology didn’t take me anywhere, I checked out different personality tests, which all ended up completely confusing. One tells me I’m an extrovert, the other tells me I’m an introvert, one tells me I’m an overcareful personality, while the other informs me that I should try to connect people. Otherwise, I could ‘end up in loneliness.’ I was about everything in between, from a hermit to a party-girl. I didn’t believe the one or other.
Then I read about the Meyers-Briggs Types. According to Meyers-Briggs, there are 16 personality types. I found that quite interesting and read a bit more about it. It seems in a way explainable and after studying the type indicator, which you can find here:
I took the free test because I was curious. I had considered myself an INFP Personality and turned out to be an INTP type, “The Thinker.” I was quite close, though.
In case you are curious, here is the personality type page I did the test on. It also shows you the type indicator and tells you exactly what the letters behind every personality means. – CONTINUE TO THE PERSONALITY TEST PAGE
Then I got one step further: since I am definitely not one of the founding members of ‘The Council Of Twelve,’ I do have a Zodiac sign. How well are the description of my Zodiac sign match the description of my ‘Meyer’s-Briggs’ personality test result? Let’s find out:
Not likely to place much value on traditional goals such as popularity and security
Spend a lot of time inside your own mind
Strong ability to analyze problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations
Highly value intelligence and knowledge
Love new ideas and become very excited over abstractions and theories
The Capricorn woman might not be very confident, extrovert, and bold. Seduction and sexiness aren’t her favorite techniques. But she is very graceful, polished and well mannered. Capricorn nature is never overly emotional and dramatic. She will remain practical, emotionally stable, and sensible, even in the most sensitive situations. She is great at learning from mistakes. Unlike many women, she is open to constructive criticism. (Sorry, when it comes to me, that sentence is totally wrong. I just left it in the description because it made me laugh loudly.)
The Capricorn woman in marriage often keeps her own desires and needs behind for the happiness of the family. She is smart, hardworking, and capable of achieving the toughest goals in life. She also has a huge appetite for physical love and lust.
Capricorn females are often so fearful of the future that they become worriers before time. Small tensions and anxieties can make them gloomy, depressed, and pessimistic.
Now, according to these personality studies of myself (HAHA), there are, indeed, a few conformities which I had marked with colored text. These similarities might be a coincidence, or there is indeed something about Zodiac signs.
All this taught me that no personality test is going to tell me I can’t be grumpy when I’m in a bad mood, even though I’m the most balanced character on Earth.
It also taught me, that this particular analysis of myself has taken me about four and a half hours. If I have to analyze each of ‘The Council Of Twelve’ characters this way, you won’t be able to read another book in the series before Easter 2032!
I figure I will continue building my characters the way I’m used to and won’t try to make them more detailed that Hippocrates told me to. LOL
But if you had taken the Meyer-Briggs test please, let us know the results in the comments. I thought it a lot of fun.
On ‘The Legends of Windermere’ blog, written by Charles Yallowitz, I found this excellent blog post about bad boys and how they really are used. Thanks for the great post, which I think to me is quite helpful, Charles.
A while back, somebody suggested I write a few posts on the ‘Bad Boy’ concept. I agreed thinking it shouldn’t be too hard. Now, I’m sitting here trying to figure out what I was thinking. Seriously, this feels like it’s outside of my ballpark because ‘Bad Boy’s in my mind don’t really appear outside of romances and dramas. Then again, I’m using a very narrow definition. Let me try to enhance it by some stream of consciousness writing.
Don is a very gifted author who is generously sharing his experience and wisdom with all of us. Thank you so much, Don Massenzio!
As I look at my writing notebook (you should consider carrying one), I see the dozens of story, setting and character ideas that I have collected and I’m both inspired and anxious.
There are many ideas that I want to turn into stories. It’s hard to write one at a time. At any given time I have a book and some kind of serial or short story going at the same time. This is tough with a 50 hour per seek day job and 45 weeks of travel per year, but I somehow manage to squeeze in some writing.
As I looked at these ideas, I began thinking about where the ideas that I’ve recorded come from. It though that telling you some of my sources might help you look at some idea generation possibilities you might not have thought of.