Who changes more – you or your characters

At the end of a story, the main character usually has changed in some way. What about you as a writer – have you changed as well?

I found that getting to know characters as I write about them changes how I look at people in my daily travels. Not in some “he’s-lost-his-grip-on-reality” way, but by understanding how people change over time as life happens.

A while ago, I decided to add depth to one of my characters by making him an alcoholic. It would have been easier to stick to the scripted paths you see in countless TV shows, but as he grew in the story he felt too real (to me) for that to work. I wrote each scene with him normally, then made changes to his actions and emotions based on two desires – his need to atone for past mistakes, and the fear of succumbing to self-destructive habits. The results left me sensing a hint of fear behind my character’s decisions and brought forward his sometimes desperate push to maintain a sense of control, especially during stressful encounters.

Did I end up with an accurate portrayal? I can’t really say. I may not have nailed the struggle that alcoholics face each day, but I cannot deny that I think and feel differently about it.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Who changes more – you or your characters

  1. talkingtostones

    In some ways, I imagine it’s like getting to know any person really well. Once you understand a person’s character, the motivations behind what they do, you have a new awareness of a different filter through which to view things; different from your own. I would think that you, the writer, would have to look at both your character and your own world with different eyes after that, especially your character, whom you now know much better. Did you find that it changed how you looked at the world?

    I wonder if it also changes your awareness of other people? As in, maybe causes you to start seeing other people with clearer eyes, more aware that they have their own motives and reasons for the things they do?

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