Character biographies are first

Jerry Myers_12_23In my last article I touched on inventing characters.  What I would like to do in this article is walk through some points that I have used and still use in that inventing process.

A story needs a storyteller.  Most writers in their first works use the disembodied narrator; much is the format of Fairy-tales read to children.  This is a classical way of writing fantasy stories.  In reality the author is telling the story through a fictional narrator.  In this format the main characters, and the other protagonist and antagonist can be described in detail, or as in a Grimm tale, characteristics are used to identify the characters, with a noticeable lack of character detail.   This form is also referred to as the third person account.

The second person account is where a character, not the main character, tells the story from their perspective.  The approach leads to a somewhat historical accounting of the story being told.  This format lets the author move from character to character and time and place can be mixed to fill in details intentionally not known to the main protagonist, or antagonist to build up sub-plots.

The first person account is where the main character tells the story from their perspective.  This is how Melville’s “Moby Dick” starts out. To some writers this is the most difficult to write.  You have to become the character to effectively write in the first person, to see their world from their eyes so to speak.

To do this I write a complete biography of my intended invented character.  This gives me a whole person, a multi-dimensional character to work with.  Surprise and figuring out what other characters are up to is the name of the game, in a first person account.  I feel that this is closer to real life, you do not know what the other person is thinking, or what they will do, or what will happen next, as in real life.  The reader get to find out along with the main character what happens, and gets emotionally involved with the responsive conflicts in the, what should I do, that I write into the character’s arc.

I find that in the first few chapters of a work that I am referring to the bio that I wrote.  This is to insure that responses that the character makes are, in an actor’s term, in character.  When the story gets rolling I find that the character has become a family member so to speak and the writing becomes second nature.  But for a writer, the bio is the map to a character; more later.

Speak Your Mind

*