A Character’s Prerogative

Subtitle: I’m Late

As a writer I am forever creating new works that introduce characters who fit the plot, the genre, and the setting. These characters, oft times , invariably sit upon the tip of my tongue, or rather, the tip of my fingers, just waiting to spring forth and live out their own story, as I type. Others still, are loath to show themselves and come out of hiding only as I coax them to the page. No matter the personality, thought must go into the type of character I choose to represent each story because each will require a developed set of traits that allow little quirks and habits to make them seem more real. You must also, give them an endearing quality so they are more apt to create a relationship with the reader, and then give them a suitable name – to fit the situation and time and, of course, for ease of calling.

There are loving characters that show every emotion upon their paper sleeve, often giving in too soon to their affections for lowly wanton desires; there are those who are withdrawn and depressive that keep to themselves and usually end up unfulfilled unless they realize their shortcomings through an epiphany, of sorts, appropriately placed during the last dregs of a long middle story, having already been beaten and prodded and poked to that realization. Modern day stories require the with-it, happening fashioned characters that are the epitome of slick, sassy and smart. Step back into history, to bring forth a player from the stages of Shakespeare’s London, and one must research the very…

“Alas, I am a player, and I offer to thee my humble servitude.”

“You interrupted…and… If indeed I called you forth, you would therefore, be late.”

“I interrupted not – you brought me forth, and hence, therefore I am arrived – on time.”

“Matter of argument – besides, I did not call you forth. I was merely writing about the characters I may call upon to tell their stories during my writing journey. So, what is it you want?”

“Master is somewhat pointed with a mere player. Perhaps, I shall forsake thee and run through my sword to maketh a point.”

“You always were the dramatist – now, in words you might understand… begone!”

 “O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.”

“Nice try. Besides, it’s been done and you certainly don’t look like a Juliet.”

“I could be.”

“Out, out, damn player.” If you let your imagination run away with you, sometimes you must be rigid and hold to the course of your writing. If a character does not fit the personality or does not seem real then, perhaps, you will lose your reader to those superficial qualities. When readers involve themselves in your work they often relate to a character, finding similarities in their situations, recalling memories of things that happened to them in likeness to the events of the story. A character’s situation can bring to light similar feelings, which may be happy, sad, anger or anguish…

“Oh, woe, what am I to do?”

“You are interrupting… but what is wrong?”

“I need someone to tell my story to so that I may find a solution to my… delicate situation.”

“Again… what is wrong?”

“I’m late.”

“I did not call you here and you did not have an appointment, so how is it that you think you are late?”

“Daft writer – I am late, as in I… am… late… and I think I might be pregnant!”

“It is not my pen that poked you there.”

“Smart-assed writer, too, but touché. It is your pen that conjured up that no-good-for-nothing-miserable-lying-clod-character and seduced me to his bed. He said he’d call. Lying bast…”

“Okay, wait a minute. I did not write that story. Are you sure you have the right writer?”

“Yes. I’m sure; you know ‘his denim shirt fell open to reveal taut, tanned skin, wet with the heat of labored work in the hot summer sun. His hand wiped a fallen lock of jet black hair from his forehead, and I could almost taste the salt on my tongue from his perspiration…”

“Whoa, back the hot bus up. Haven’t had the chance to do cheesy romance yet, so, definitely not mine… but, mind if I use that…”

“Wait, you are not Harlequin. Oh, my… copyright… gotta go!”

Your characters are not the only ones getting into sticky situations. You must remember to check all the legalities of writing when you choose to publish your story. Don’t go using another author’s characters – develop your own. Make them real. Check out copyright laws – here in Canada, of course, as soon as you write something it is protected, but it can’t just be a line or an idea. You can’t copyright those. You should also check the names of your characters by doing a Google search – just a first name here and there doesn’t need to be checked. There are a million and one people with the name John, Robert, Anne, Elizabeth, Jason, Jennifer…and so on. But if you are going to use a full name, first and last, check it out before you go inserting that poor being into life altering predicaments. Even if you use the disclaimer that insists “no person, alive or dead, is depicted in this work, and similarities or likenesses are purely coincidental.” It’s just best not to go there.

The most important thing to remember when writing a new story is to not let the development of your character hold up your creative process. It is good story planning to sit down with them before you start the actual story to get to know them, especially if you are planning something as lengthy as a new novel. A character outline or sketch allows you the unhurried task of determining characteristics and based on the descriptions – personality traits, idiosyncrasies, habits, hobbies, physical features, etc. – all will determine how a character will act and react to whatever situation you happen to dream up for them.  

“Hi, there. Time for my story. Am I late?”

“No. Actually, you are “write” on time.”   

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