One of the hardest things to do when writing, I think, is to give characters their own identities book after book, identities that people will remember and even identify with themselves.
Sometimes I begin a new project and wonder who these new people will be that insist on telling me their stories. When I start to write their stories, I also begin to get that nagging worry What if this female mc is just like my last one?
The same for the male characters.
After a few days of panicking and second-guessing myself, I put the work aside and let it simmer. During this time, I think about me. That might sound very self-serving, but it’s actually key in helping me understand and develop my new characters.
In Robin Hobb’s Assassin series (which I love) one of the characters must carve his own dragon. To give the dragon life, he must give it everything. So, as he’s carving, he gives it his memories. His emotions.
I love this and use the analogy all the time to help me with my writing. I think to myself, what part of me can I give this new character? I choose a memory or an emotion or a character trait. Because I know this particular emotion or memory very well, I can explore it with the character and it helps to give the characters that bit of extra realism. It also helps me to get to know myself more. I love to study the whys and wherefores of peoples’ actions and reactions, and if I glean some understanding of myself, then I can give that to my characters. Not always, and not with every character. For some reason I find male mcs much easier to write than my female ones, but that’s another post some day.
I wrote a short story in the last few days where I struggled at first with Katie, my female mc. I couldn’t relate to her, couldn’t grasp who she was innately. I found it hard to write her, so I spent some time thinking, and came up with something from me that I could give her, that was relevant to her character and that I could also then relate to. It made the story much easier to write and I finished today, yay!
So the next time you find yourself stuck with a character ask yourself what part of yourself you can invest.