Writing Wednesday: Coffee with Characters

I see comments from different authors, some asking “How do you know what your character would do?” and others saying, “It’s your character, you tell them what to do.”

I admit to having a good chuckle at those who believe they control every aspect of their story. I don’t know many who’re published who don’t question whether these characters are really their own creations or not at least part of the time.There are a few things I do to get to know my characters. I do “have coffee with them” once in a while. Usually, I’ll settle in with my morning coffee and have a “chat” with a character I’m not connecting with. I’ll find out what is in the way.

Another thing is to do an “interview” with them. What do they like so far, what do they think I’m not getting right about them, and where do we turn things to fix it.

I’ve also asked characters for their memories during these chats. What was it like when ___?

By now, some of you may be wondering if I’ve gone off the deep end. Well… not recently. That happened decades ago. This isn’t a sign of insanity.

This process is a creative way to handle the difficult task of “creating” an entire new person without making it just another photo-shopped copy of the author. It gives me a tool I use to separate myself from that character.

I hate Mary Sue characters. I really do not want to write one, not now, not ever. I like who I am, overall, but honestly, you can’t put me in any of my stories and get the same story. My goal is to make sure the characters are not “me” in a different suit.

There are a ton of ways to make sure you don’t end up writing a self-insert by mistake. (Self-insert on purpose is quite fun, just for the record.) Some people use special templates, some use character sheets from role playing games, and others use a list of primary and secondary traits.

I have coffee with mine. I guess I never quite got over losing my invisible friends and all the adventures we had, so now, I have new invisible friends and we talk about all sorts of adventures, family struggles, and more. It’s perfect for coffee!

Speaking of, it sounds like this morning’s brew is ready, and Lauren says she needs to talk to me about something. Great. The down side of my method is that your creations will tell you off at times, and from the look on her face, I’ve done something she’s not okay with at all.

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