Hawkeye Dishes on "They Did It, Not Me."

Hullo everyone. Legolas here with a thoughtful, rambled, somewhat discussion post.

So a few weeks ago, I went to a book signing for one of my favorite authors ever. Ever. And when I got up there to meet him, I actually had the nerve to ask, why he killed my feels at the end of one of his trilogies. His answer was so cliched and yet true. "I'm sorry, but they did it not me. It wasn't my ending to choose."

That's got me thinking lately about the writing phenomenon of  "They Did It, Not Me." It's interesting when you think about it, how often as writers we refer to our characters as real people. This used to confuse me back when I was a young twelve year-old writer, but lately I've really been able to see how true this is.

The more you get invested in your story, the more you write and develop it in your brain, and the more real your characters become to you. Right? Sometimes I've even had characters be the first thing that shows up. It's almost like we've got this psychic connection.

Such as my Pinterest board SKYLAR SAYS. When I met Skylar through a pin all I really know was two things. A) That she was blonde and she was part of a contemporary story, and B) That she loved converse shoes. But that alone was enough to give me a peek into her story. And as I pinned things I felt represented her, I've learned so much more about her story. She's one of the most vivid characters I've ever had, and I don't even know her full story yet.

Has this ever happened to you? When you've just been so emotionally and physically connected that you know things about them that you didn't know? That things show up and you just feel that it belongs with that protaganist? Hands down it's a wonderful feeling. That's writing at it's core. When it's not just telling your story, but feeling and knowing your story. It's more than words and it needs to be.

Which brings me to thinking about the "They Did It"  part. Once we know THEM and can begin to discover who they are without having to make things up, that's where it happens. For instance, I wrote a first draft and I produced a character that I loved. She was my baby and she character that brought out so much in my protaganist. And yet...she had to go. She needed to die. And I didn't give it a second thought. My friends protested loudly, but nope. I knew that was her story, and I was okay with that. It got the MC where I wanted her, and it just needed to happen. Yeah, I'm sad, especially since she's a marksmen herself, but it's her story, and it would be wrong otherwise. 

Okay, so what if you don't have that THEY part? What if you've never felt this inner connection? You're probably gonna need to find it, is my guess. So how do you go about this character discovery? Well there are many ways. I've heard lots of tips for these kinds of things and I'm just gonna mention a few.

Visualize It - This is my way! If you're a visual learner, chances are that's how you connect! Surf Tumblr or Pinterest for things you already know about your story. Create places to bunch them together and keep a stock. [hence why Pinterest is so great for writers] However you learn, is probably gonna be the best way to discover you character.

Think It - Go somewhere public and sit. Watch the people around you. Guess they're stories. Make some up! Imagine your character in their place. Would they react more like the shifty-eyed teenage boy in the corner over there? Or the shy girl? Who knows!

My dad and I used to drive by the same person walking to the same place at the same time each day. After a few weeks, we had his whole life story playing out that we could have written a book about him. Maybe we will!

Write It - So maybe you're not a visual learner. Maybe you need to pick a random and totally bizarre scenario and write a few different reactions to it. I did this once, and it was interesting to see what I came up with. Need a prompt?

  • Your protagonist finds her/himself trapped during an Indiana Jones like mission. He or She is lowered by a rope to the ground and lands in a big pile of sticky goo. Write three scenarios in which your MC is afraid, annoyed, and curious.
  • A giant squid just attacked your protag's cruise ship! Write three scenarios in which your character is terrified, wimpy and active(takes action).
  • It's a sad day for your MC when the ex-love of his/her life starts to make moves on his/her archenemy to make him/her jealous. Write three scenarios in which your MC is feeling revengeful, bored and angry.

With that sad, I want to hear what you have to think! Tell me about your connections and how you find them? Do you think it's important? Let me know. And lastly, my challenge to you: Pick a character you don't feel connected too and DISCOVER THEM. Get to know they're personality. If you can't, they won't contribute to the story and they'll just be totally

1 comment:

  1. You know, until I read this post today I thought I was the only person out there that had this sort of conection with thier characters. I told my parents about this connection and they said I was going pretty crazy and I began to think I was. Now I can see I'm not the only one this crazy or should I saw unique out there. Great post!! Thanks!!!