Be Honest

I had another post queued up for today, but it’s one I’m not sure I’ll ever actually post. I wrote it when I was (more than) half in the bag, and all the way depressed. Maybe I’ll keep that one to myself.

But…that means I need to get something put together to go up today. Err, tomorrow actually…I’m writing this the night before Thanksgiving, before it’s time to start the cooking, drinking and aggressive couch-sitting.

Just enough time for a random, squirrel-driven thought then…

Nerds.

Err, that’s me actually.

I can recite every Star Trek episode by heart…I play video games…I read (and write) sci-fi and fantasy…I, err, own manga and watch anime…

Yup, seriously a nerd.

As a kid, I hid my nerditude. Now I embrace it as an important part of who I am.

Of course, it took living a decidedly un-nerdly life for many years to help me accept that part of myself.

So what parts of your characters are they trying to hide from themselves? Hell, what parts are they hiding from you? That’s the interesting stuff, that’s the heart of the character. And it’s hard as hell to pull off, just like it’s hard as hell to trust your characters to speak for themselves.

As a writer, you’ve presumably (I hope) accepted those embarrassing parts of yourself, and those dark corners in your soul. That’s what should fuel your creativity. You don’t have to like yourself, you just have to be honest with yourself. But if you’ve done that with yourself, have you done it with your characters?

Do you know who they really are?

Roger Zelazny once advised that a writer should write a background scene for each major character, a scene that had nothing to do with the story. A scene from an important incident or moment in their past, a scene that defined who they were.

Give it a try.

Don’t make it serve the plot, don’t make it serve preconditions or predefined ideas. Let your character be honest and open and tell the story themselves. Most importantly, no one but you will ever read it (probably), so be as raw and unfiltered as you like. This is not the time for polishing and perfection, it is the time for honesty and emotion that connects.

You will learn something about your character, believe me. That something may just give you more depth to work with, or that something may even change the story you’re writing. Either way, both you and your character win.

And, yes, doing this exercise is where the major, horrifying incident in Connor’s past came from. That incident changed the character in fundamental ways that I’m still exploring, but also deepened him (at least to me) and forced me to adapt certain elements of the story itself.

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