Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fear in Writing Characters. Also, Artwork!

I have this thing with artwork. I find it very, very inspiring--kind of like I find music inspiring when I write. There are certain songs that come to "belong" to certain stories or characters, and listening to those songs helps me so much when writing those characters or that story.

My friend Holly (who has done artwork from my books before, and who did the cover art for Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School), made more art from the books I'm currently writing. There are two books for this particular story, because it got too long to cram into one book. The first book is written, polished, betaed a gazillion times, and edited a gazillion more times. The second book is the one I'm writing, and so having art of my two main characters to look at makes me giddy and inspired more than I can say.

And because I am totally sharing her talent whenever possible, here is my friend Holly's art of my two characters, Lachlan and Brenna, from my books Rising and Rising 2.

Brenna and Lachlan, Rising and Rising 2 © Laura Josephsen
Art © Holly Robbins

This also gives me a chance to talk about fear in writing characters. Those two characters portrayed above? When I first realized that in order to do this story justice, I needed to use their points of view and tell their story, I was terrified. I have never been scared of writing characters before, because exploring characters gives me the opportunity to get out of my head and into theirs, and to delve deep into a lot of things, and I love that.

Delving deep into Lachlan and Brenna's heads was daunting and scary, because I knew it was going to push me out of all of my comfort zones. Writing quite a lot of parts of Rising was already difficult and emotional and intense, and I knew that Rising 2 was going to be even more so. My characters have been through a lot, and I'm only adding to what they're dealing with. I worried that I wouldn't be able to do justice to their story. I worried that I was going to cross some lines that I might not be comfortable with. I came to realize, though, that to not tell their story would be unfair. Characters aren't cookie cutter people. I couldn't just say, "These characters would only do this, because that is ALL I am willing to write." Well, I could, but it would have made for a really flat story and characters who weren't true to themselves.

Characters aren't me. I may not like what they do. I may not be comfortable with what they do. I may not agree with with it. But because they're not me, they're them, sometimes that means stepping way, way outside of my comfort zone to do justice to who they are and what their story is.

Nine months after realizing I was going to need to write their points of view, I am not terrified of writing them anymore. I am excited about it, and I'm plugging my way through the first draft of their story.

My questions to you today are: Have you ever been scared of writing a character? Did you do it anyway? Do you think that you could write a sympathetic character who behaves in ways that you completely disagree with?

I know there are a lot of people who write characters they disagree with, and by the end of the book, the character has seen the error of his/her ways based on what the author thinks is correct. That's fine. But what if the character never thinks what they're doing is wrong? People aren't clear-cut, and characters aren't either.

I'm very, very interested in others' thoughts on this, since I've spent many months contemplating a lot of this.


  1. Man, it seems my reply to your last post disappeared. Hopefully it'll show up again. Hmm...

    And I'm so glad you posted the pic! It's great, isn't it? Holly sure is talented. I absolutely adore this picture! Even more than her last one of them. LOL.

    Yes. Yes, I have gone through this. You remember. It was that Kingdom Hearts story I just recently finished. I know you read the first chapter, and it seemed dark, but it got SO much darker.

    And in many ways, I was uncomftorable. But I realized I liked the story idea, and that I had to write it. Besides, the story wouldn't have left me alone if I hadn't. LOL.

    For me, it was very difficult because the KH characters are not mine, and I was making Sora so much different than we'd ever seen him. Sora! My favorite character ever, because of how good he is.

    But I knew that things would get better, and that light at the end was really why I wrote it.

    And I came to realize just because I have certain subjects in my story, it doesn't mean I have to go in depth with them. I didn't want to. As long as the emotion's there, I don't think you need to have vivid, disturbing scenes. Boy were there hints, and flashes of it though.

    It wasn't easy writing this story, but I'm glad I did. It's one of my favorites, and it was all worth it. I've grown so much in writing it.

    I've also written a few other stories where the characters scare me some. Like my new story, my main girl (Alma) is insane, and can be quite sadistic.

    I seem to have a thing for writing about unstable people...

    Writing isn't easy, but we have to do it, don't we? I think, when you're so worried about getting into your character's head, you're doing it right. That means there's something there, and that it's real, intense, and emotional.

  2. I love characters and being able to jump into the minds of other "people", but I do get uncomfortable sometimes presenting an opinion that might reflect badly on me as the author. Then I remember that I always want to be true to the character above all and I get through it somehow. Good luck with yours!

  3. This is interesting becasue I've been finding out the same thing about my characters. That they really aren't me. They have different desires and motivations.

    Love the artwork, BTW!

  4. I used to write characters that were a lot like me. Too much Mary Sue or something. Now I know there's a piece of me in them, but they're not replicas of me anymore.

  5. Fantastic illustration! Did you use Photoshop to "colorize" them? ;)

    Yes,there was on particular character I was afraid of. He was scandalous! Bloodthirsty, lusty thing--and he isn't even human. He's everything I'm not and I was afraid to let myself "think" like him because it's out of my moral being to do so!

    Let me tell ya, that created one enormous writers block until I gave myself permission to go ahead, it wasn't I who was sinning, but he! ;)


  6. I don't think I've ever been scared of writing a character, although I've been fearful of how a character will be perceived. If that character suits the story, though, and serves his purpose, I let him be. And I always try to find at least some sympathetic qualities in a character. I like to think that everyone has some sympathetic quality.

  7. I totally understand the fear! I don't have it with most characters, but there are SOME that are definitely hard to write. Even some hard-to-write ones don't give me the fear. I guess I get the most fear is when they have personality traits and motivations that I don't completely understand because I don't possess the same ones. Those cases take a LOT of digging deep.

    And how cool is that picture? I'd be completely inspired by art of my MCs-- especially if it was THAT well done!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!