L= Listening to Characters

Most of the time I have a set idea for how my characters are going act, what they’ll say, and what kind of moral fiber they possess…and then they start doing things on their own. Not in a Stephen King-ish kind of way – I don’t write one thing down only to edit later and find my writing to have magically changed (though that would be interesting). No, these changes usually occur when I’m in the zone, fingers flying over the keyboard with no time for second guessing. It’s these moments where listening to my characters helps to keep the story flowing and feeling realistic.

The times that I run into the biggest challenge when writing is when I stop listening to the characters or, worse, willfully ignore what they are trying to tell me. Maybe I don’t want to sully the reputation of my protagonist and so leave out the fact that he just tried to kick his dog. Or perhaps I opt to leave out that my antagonist regularly donates the majority of his money to a cancer research foundation in honor of his deceased mother because that makes him to likeable and human.

These little nuggets of information seemingly come out of nowhere to the reader, but the writer knows that they come from the listening to the character.

What about you? Do you listen to your characters? Ever tried to ignore a character and ended up writing in circles?

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9 thoughts on “L= Listening to Characters

  1. Yes, yes and again yes! My number one rule is to listen to my characters even if what they tell me will totally disgrace them in the eyes of a potential reader (i.e cheating – if one of My MCs has the hots for someone other than the person he’s with, then he’ll have his way). Any attempt to ignore them equals disaster, and what’s written sounds hollow. I know it’s not the most professional point of view but well…It’s always been about love.

    I’m happy I stumbled upon your blog. Now following to read the rest as soon as I can.

    Rian from
    Rian’s Randomness

    1. Ha! Yes! I’ve definitely been running into that with my work in progress…only the it’s the opposite. I have a character who I want to be strong and not fall for the wrong guy…but she keeps running back to this married man. Argh!

    1. I don’t usually use character sketches, but I tried it after dumping almost an entire book where my characters were too wooden and I had to start over. The character sketches helped, but, like you said, it was really only when I started work on a new draft that I really got to know my characters.

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