The Importance of Building a Relationship with Your Character

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.


Real characters are like real people. It takes time to get to know them…. in the same way that it takes time for someone to trust you enough to offer you a look into their inner secrets. Even the most simple of characters have the potential to become complex. You will never know everything there is to know about them… and if you think that you do, then chances are, there’s something else you’re missing in your relationship that keeps them from showing you more.

What? Relationship? With a character?

You heard me right.

When Characters Become Figments

Discovering_the_DestinyMy writing friends and I use the term “figment” to refer to characters we most deeply connect to. That is because they are more than just a character… more than just a name and design… more than just a conglomeration of personality traits that we though were cool to try to mesh together. They have become a living, breathing extension of their Author.

In fact, my some of my own figments have been a part of my life for over 15 years now… and are so interconnected to me, that I could never imagine my life without them. They are at once separate and a part of me. Some of them display aspects of my own personality good and bad. Some of them represent parts of myself that I keep secret from the public face. Some have talents, skills or personality traits that I find admirable and wish I could be like. Some have talents, skills or traits that I find interesting to merge, test and learn about.

But always, a figment is a character that I care for just as deeply as a living person. I respect their feelings and often find myself emotionally stepping into their shoes as I write for them. When they win a victory, I feel their success. When they are met with anger, bitterness, sadness or defeat, I feel that too. I’m sensitive to their struggles and strife… even if they are generally placed into situations far more dangerous and fantastic than anything I could ever live through. And at all times, I reach to maintain this open emotional give-and-take with my characters and in order to capture them on the page as if they were living and breathing people.

Does that mean that I’m always successful at doing this? Well… no. But that’s a topic for another post at another time.

How does that kind of relationship form? Well, just like any other relationship. Time. Trust. Communication. Understanding.

I plan on going into further detail about this as well. So stick around for future posts!

As a writer… ask yourself, which characters are your figments. Do you have any REAL figments… and if so, how did you develop the connection with that character that you have? Maybe you don’t have a character you’re connected to enough to call a figment… and if so, what do you need to do to being cultivating that relationship? What’s blocking the creator/creation communication that keeps you from really getting in tune with the characters that you are writing?

Do you have a figment-finding story to share? I’d love to hear about it!


  1. I think I have more figments than not-figments–a rather unnerving fact, given the sheer number of characters I deal with on a regular basis.

    It’s easier to find figments when you’re a roleplayer, because the game practically requires you to make a figment of your PC. The practice has helped me figment in general; my primary work of fiction at this point is a game I’ve been running for my friends for three and a half years now, with more characters than I should know what to do with… and I think a lot of them reach figment status; I’m at the point where I wonder if I’m doing something wrong when a character I regularly use doesn’t figmentize.

    I’m not sure how I do it, though. I think what happens is that some feature of the character calls out to me, no matter how much the rest of the character differs. (It certainly explains why one of my favorite characters is the snarky, long-since-dead antagonist who hangs out in another one’s body, and occasionally surfaces to get in verbal sparring matches with the players when they want information.) Usually it’s something I’m curious about: where did this feature come from? How does it affect her outlook on life? The only way to find out is to let myself slip into that mindset, and I don’t think I can truly share a mind with a character without acquiring her as a figment. If anything, the main difference between my characters is degree of figmentation.

    Make sense?

    Ravyn’s last blog post..The Generic Villain on Women in the Industry, Part 3

  2. Ravyn: Makes perfect sense to me… I’m in the same boat. Long ago, I only had one figment to my name and I never foresaw myself able to write for more than one character deeply enough to make more figments. But thanks to a good writing partner, other bits and pieces of personality began taking shape through writing and comics. Now I have way too many figments to know what to do with!

    As I commented on your blog, it’s far harder for me to make a random, 2-dimensional walk-on character than it is for me to create a new figment. ^^;;

  3. Though I recognize that this was first posted in 2009, I had to add my two cents.

    I have several figments, who I have actual relationships with, and I developed these relationships in school. These characters were my first real friends, as depressing as that sounds, and I likely would not have survived middle school without them.

    Of course, they’ve changed since then, changed with me.

    Recently, though, my G!Verse characters have started to develop into figments. I do have a close, personal, relationship with Cecil.

    Generally, it’s always been easy for me to form these relationships, in part because these figments seem to relate to me better than real people.

    Though, I do feel as if I’ve been neglecting them recently, and feel bad.

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