Making characters believable and finding your voice as a writer can be hard to do. It’s what I like most about movies and books and my own writing—carefully crafted characters and strong, unique, voices. To help me create characters that are layered and rich I study the world around me—the people I encounter every day. I love when characters do unexpected things.
I guess I’m sometimes bothered when someone says, “that character wouldn’t do that…” part of me thinks, “well she just did, that’s what makes her interesting!” I also adore unlikable characters. Not cartoon characters, but characters who are abrasive, selfish, insecure, worried, but with good intentions…damaged, well-intentioned people are so interesting to me. I do understand that many readers don’t appreciate those characters and I know that when/if I create characters like that, there will be readers who dislike them and tell everyone just that in their reviews!
I was actually interviewed this year for the Writer’s Guide to 2013in the article, ” Not All Grandmothers Have White Hair: Making Minor Characters Fresh,” by Chris Eboch. I think the most important part of crafting memorable characters is to be purposeful with their creation and know that not everyone will see the person you’ve crafted. They might be called flat, awful, boring, or what have you so it’s important to be able to look back on the work you did, to comfort yourself with the knowledge you layered the characters in the way you wanted them to be. You can’t please everyone!
I think finding your writing voice is different for all writers. The decision to write in first or third person can really alter the feel and tone of your book. I wrote Love and Other Subjects in first person—it’s women’s fiction. It has a chick lit tone with some more literary explorations of education and love. It screamed for first person. With The Last Letter and After the Fog I felt more comfortable with third because I could show the reader more than just what the protagonist sees and feels, etc. I think I prefer and feel more freedom with third person, but I love Carolyn’s voice in Love and Other Subjects.