hey! so i've been outlining my book and one of my characters, who has had to provide for her sister and herself her entire life, is supposed to be kinda rude and mean. but she's not really acting that way toward another character, and i feel like she should be. she's only known the other character for maybe two weeks, and I'm worried that she's going against her personality for no real reason. thank you so much!!
Hello there, writerly friend~ ✿
I have touched on this subject in the past, but allow me to elaborate! You see, the funny thing about characters is that… well, just like you never know a person until you meet them, you never know a character until you write them.
I mean it.
Have you considered that maybe — just maybe — this character doesn’t want to be rude to this person that she just met? I know that some writers may read that and call it heresy, but really consider the question.
Do you think you know more about your characters than they do?
You see, I have written so many books by now— and I can tell you with certainty that during the revision process I spend 80% of my time fixing the first third of the book. Why? Because every time (and I do mean every time) I find that the character I wrote in the beginning is not like the person I wrote in the end. The same character in the early chapters seemed like a simplification: a summary of a person. This was because during those early pages I would spend a long time battling between myexpectations of the character— and who they really were. And my job during the revision process is to go back and make sure this character is who they are supposed to be from the beginning.
One of these days I will post the original character sheets for Anabel and Justine (From Justine’s Blood). I swear they are not even the same people— and that’s good, because whoever I thought they were supposed to be is nothing compared to who they really were.
I know that we are told to ‘come up’ with stories, but I don’t think that is what actually happens. We don’t ‘come up’ with them— we find them. We stumble upon characters too. I know this may not be what you expected to hear, but this is what I really feel.
If you are afraid that this character is not who you thought they were, then good. Keep writing. If they surprised you, they will surprise the reader.
If you are afraid that now your outline is ruined, then no problem. Keep writing. Just follow this character and see where they go. Life is not scripted, so welcome the unknown and see where it takes you.
As a final note, I will leave you with my favorite piece of character advice:
If you wish your characters to behave like real people, and be as complex as real people, then you must treat them like real people.
I hope this helps! If you, or any other writerly friend has any more questions, feel free to send them my way! (◕‿◕✿)