The Importance of Building a Relationship with Your Character

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

My 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!