Characters–Love ’em or Not


Trick or treat moose

Trick or treat moose

As writers we deal with them in our books.  As TV and movie watchers we bond with some on the screen, detest others, and remain neutral about others.  As members of a family we see characters within our family circles.  As friends, we see them emerge within our friendship circle.

No matter what our perspective, we all deal with characters.

As a writer, I am often asked how I find my characters.  I’ve taken classes which explain how to build characters and how you must know them well before you begin writing.  Sometimes that process works for me.  But not often.

Sure, when I start a new project I have ideas and jot down some basics, but really each character builds on his or her own energy.  Sure, I know some very important elements about my characters, their demons, their flaws, their strengths.  Or I think I know.

But often in the course of working with them for hours each day, I discover layers and issues I had no clue about before I began.   Usually, I worry about this.  Could these new discoveries, these new twists of character ruin my story, kill my character uniqueness in the view of my readers?  Will what I find so intriguing and special about my characters turn off others or worse, leave them totally neutral?

But those characters keep bugging me if I don’t be true to them.  So I listen to them as the world on the pages I write is their world, not mine.

I think I’ve been true to this concept in my just released book, Black Ribbon Affair.  Two people who’ve read it and have known ME for years, have remarked that the voices they heard, the world they read about in Black Ribbon wasn’t me or the world they know I inhabit.  They entered the worlds of Caitlin, Mike, Rachel and others.

I believe this is high praise.  Not for me, but for my characters.  All I did was listen to them.

In the project I’m working on now, I have a character I really thought I’d be killing off in some way.  Just because he’s so selfish and self-destructive.  Instead, I find he’s insisting on staying alive and putting himself into greater trouble.  All that ripples out to his family.  Maybe at some point, he’ll allow me to sideline him—somehow.  But for now, he’s still in my chapters.  Always hurting himself far more than others.

Trickerster Moose

Tricker Moose

I guess I won’t know him completely until I get to the end of the story.

What about you?  Do characters in your lives, your stories, or family or friends rule you?  Do you continue to find new layers to them as you continue your interactions?

Explore posts in the same categories: Character traits, Wild life, Writing

4 Comments on “Characters–Love ’em or Not”

  1. Edie Says:

    Great pictures!

    I hope I’m surprised by my characters. I love surprised by them, and I even count on that. If they didn’t surprise me, I’d feel like they were growing.

    In real life … well, not so sure how I like surprises by real people I know. Just the good ones. lol

  2. caseyclifford Says:


    I thought the photos were great also. My Alaska son sent them a few years ago. They heard a thump on their front lawn on Halloween–and the rest as they say, was a Kodak Moment. 🙂

  3. Deb Maher Says:

    Yes, absolutely great photos! They made me giggle. Such a perfect choice to go with the post.

    Characters take on a life of their own. Once they are created they do what they feel like doing – just like a pumpkin-eating moose! 🙂

  4. caseyclifford Says:


    Giggling is great, especially after a hard day.

    Characters do take on a life of their own. The villain in Black Ribbon is getting lots of comments from readers. With each revision he got creepier, scaring me at times since he was taking over my words. But I had to allow him to be what he was.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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