In my previous post on characters, I mentioned the Loner. The Loner, to most writers, is the easiest character to write about because he/she is, in fact, the writer. All writers are essentially loners. We can be introverts or extroverts, or a combination of both–which is what most people are.
You see, writing is a lonely business. It’s so personal, sharing your inner feelings about everything. And your story, fiction or non-fiction, becomes your child, and who doesn’t want to protect his/her child? In fact, for human beings, and most other animals, it is abnormal not to want to protect your child. People are often warned never to get between a mother bear and her cub or cubs if you want to remain healthy and alive.
Oh, you can be part of a writing group. You can even have a partner or partners in writing. But when you sit down to write, that blank piece of paper or electronic screen becomes an extension of your ego or psyche. What you put on it is personal. It’s part of you. It’s dynamic is your dynamic. What you love, what you fear, what you hate, what brings you happiness, all of that is what you give when you write. If you don’t give, you don’t get.
What don’t you get? You don’t get readers. You don’t get their respect. You don’t get their interest. You don’t get their admiration.
It comes down to this: If you don’t put part of yourself into your characters–especially the primary ones–then what are you putting into them? Shallowness, that’s what.
Your characters have to live and they don’t live through the readers, they live through you. If you want to put it in religious terms, God lives through everyone He creates, and you, the write, lives through every character you create.
The Loner must ache, must hurt, must suffer. And the writer must suffer with the Loner. So, if you want the Loner to suffer a lot, you have to suffer with him/her. And if you suffer, the reader suffers.
But here’s the most important part–the reader, the writer, and the Loner have to have hope. Without hope, how do you go on? Hope is everything. Hope is the key to human existence. A life without hope is a life without meaning. So as the Loner suffers, what makes him or her go on is hope.
The reader won’t continue to read about the Loner if the Loner just suffers and suffers and suffers. The Loner must achieve some success in his/her goals. If nothing else, enough success to keep hoping and growing.
The flip side to that? If the Loner doesn’t suffer, where’s the story? There is no story.
The story is in either the continuing promise or successful conclusion to the end of the Loner’s suffering.
Another thing important about the Loner, he/she needs other people. The Loner needs to make friends. Those friends can consist of secondary characters and sometimes tertiary characters. Remember, tertiary characters are just shield bearers. People on the street that the Loner meets or sees but rarely interacts with. The Loner might greet the Tertiaries with a request for direction or information, but the Loner rarely interacts with the same tertiary character again.
Secondary characters are more important. They’re the Loner’s casual or common friends. Sometimes, they’re even best friends or lovers. But their goals and existence are secondary to the Loner’s goals and existence. The Secondaries are influential to the Loner’s development, but the Loner must make the choices himself/herself.
And don’t forget to put part of yourself into each secondary character. Don’t give all the best lines to the Loner. Let your other characters, the secondaries, have great lines and great thoughts. Give them a breath of life, too.
And when you think about it, whenever you can, give a little life to the tertiary characters, too. The more interesting your characters are, the better your story will be.