When Characters Come Alive – Guest Post by Alexander Kosoris

Alexander Kosoris is an author, a game designer, and a pharmacist.  His first novel, Lucifer, is a witty fantasy that flips the classic image of Heaven on its head.  If you’d like to know more, you can find Lucifer on Indiegogo.

When Characters Come Alive

When Characters Come Alive

Character development is quite strange. No matter how long I have thought about how a character acts and how he feels, and no matter how carefully I happen to have mapped out the course of that character as he treads his way over the plot of the tale, there comes a very interesting point over the course of writing where he does something to surprise me. Now, while I do accept that I could be the sole individual to experience this, I’m skeptical to that being the case, but I truly believe that this is the very instance where the character begins to come alive.

Being my only substantial foray into the world of writing at this point, my experience pertaining to this topic lies mainly within my “masterpiece,” Lucifer, quotation marks added to feign humility. I think it was most apparent to me with the titular character more than anything, where I had a clear goal in mind for him and where he cared not for what I felt was best for him. By the time I made my way to the climax, there was no way he could do what I wanted him to do, what with all the ways he changed and grew while getting there. And, of course, this was a wonderful discovery; for this to happen, the character must have much more dimension to him than I initially gave him credit.

But what does a writer do when faced with this “problem?” It really depends on the depth of the issue. I was fortunate enough that the new direction the plot went in unfolded rather naturally, writing itself, so to say. It also happened late enough in the story that there was not much that built upon what came of the change. Pretend for a moment, however, that such a development occurred mid-plot, with the character’s choices completely changing everything that came after. What to do? I imagine that a much better story would come from scrapping the initial idea and building around the character’s budding personality than attempting to wedge him into an environment that now lacks believability, but doing so could ruin everything the author initially set out to accomplish with the story. Nonetheless, I would argue that it would be well worth it to change focus should this happen, no matter how tedious the chore, as such an exercise should yield a much richer experience for author and reader alike.

Of course, another issue that presents itself linked to the aforementioned is the matter of rewriting and editing the novel. Once again, it may not be an issue in the slightest, with the events of the story up to the change shaping the character in ways that make perfect sense, but it may be quite tempting to alter earlier happenings to match the newfound personality. And, this is the time where the author risks making major changes earlier on, requiring further changes later on or, dare I say, writing oneself into a corner. I assume that the key to the task is to properly differentiate between necessary and unnecessary changes, finding those that are problematic enough to ruin the story. For, there is a point where rewriting and altering can ruin some truly great things that once existed. And, while an author can probably rewrite a story over and over and over again forever, there must be a point where she steps away and lets it go.

Thus, despite all the difficulties associated with it, life coming to characters serves to greatly strengthen a story. And, as such, I grant all the authors out there this humble blessing: that you are all confronted with this “problem.”

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