What Makes A Man   3 comments

Post background information on your characters (possibly things that will never be in the books, but are back of who they are)

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lifeasweknewitIt’s an interesting question … what makes a man? We are all the sum total of the things that have happened to us from birth to any moment in time. These experiences determine how we react in any given circumstance. They are the foundation of who we are today. It’s a question

It’s a question authors ought to ask about our characters because answering that question gives a character depth. You don’t necessarily need to share the answers with your readers, but it helps if you know the answers for yourself. It’s the difference between a flat one-dimensional character and a multi-faceted person who lives on the page.

Since my characters just sort of invade my brain rather than my constructing them, I often don’t know what makes them tick until long into the writing process. They will suddenly react to something in a certain way and I’ll go “hmm? Now why’d you do that?” Generally, these characters will not allow me to redirect them, so I have to answer the question – What made you the way that you are?

In Transformation Project (an apocalyptic series that currently includes Life As We Knew It and Objects in View), I have two brothers who are very different from one another. They were raised by the same people, have the same sister, in the same town, only a couple of years apart in age. They even dated the same girl … and one of them married her. So why are they so different?

To a certain extent, the difference started before birth. Their mother’s pregnancy with Shane was more difficult — he was very active, he was early, he gave her morning sickness for eight months. He was a more demanding baby, prone to colic, and impossible to put on a schedule. He crawled early, walked at eight months, and climbed the stairs before he was a year.

Meanwhile, Cai was an easy pregnancy, a calm baby, who slept through the night by six weeks, and reached his milestones only a few weeks ahead of other kids. The first child, he was immediately one of the bright kids when he got to school and would eventually be valedictorian. He excelled at team sports, was the prom king, and a good church kid. He went on to a great college career, followed by law school, followed by taking a job as the City attorney for Emmaus. He’s paying off his student loans by living with his parents. The only bumps in his road have been getting a girl pregnant and her deciding to get an abortion and marrying his brother’s long-time sweetheart after his brother left town with no intentions of returning. He’s just an easy-going, practical guy, voted most likely to succeed.

objectsinviewShane also did very well in school. He could have been the valedictorian, but his girlfriend beat him out of it. A pivotal moment for shaping his life happened when he was about 9 and was tossed from a horse, causing a dislocated shoulder. It was a somewhat remote location, which required him to get back on the horse and ride to help. He liked individual sports – wrestling, kickboxing, running and horseback riding. He lost his virginity at 14 to that long-time girlfriend. He also drank and smoked pot. He had no use for church growing up, even though he admires his grandfather’s faith. He fell in with his girlfriend’s father, who supplies alcohol to dry Kansas counties. He worked other local jobs in high school too. He was an adventurer who liked to push the edge of safety. He studied to become a pilot and ran up student loans, then got caught selling pot to someone at college, which brought him into contact with his roommate’s father, an FBI agent who needed someone from Emmaus to act as a confidential informant with a militia just outside of Emmaus. Although that operation turned out well for the government, it blew up in Shane’s face by estranging him from his girlfriend and her father. This required him to flee town. His grandfather innocently connected him up with a small air freight company (owned by the son of a friend) that turned out to be controlled by a drug cartel, which caused his current handler to recruit him as an informant. That later led to deployment to the Middle East, which had its own set of influences good and bad.

So, now, in the maelstrom of the post-apocalypse, these two men react to what comes their way in very different ways. I like playing with the two characters, knowing that they won’t act the same. Because I find force characters to do things against their wills results in wasted writing time, I sometimes have to adjust my plot to please the characters. I suspect Shane and Cai will scare each other to death and that they will secretly admire one another’s technique while being utterly incapable of imitating it. I also suspect, if the series goes on long enough, that they’ll learn from each other … at least to know when to get out of the other’s way.

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3 responses to “What Makes A Man

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  1. Interesting characters!

    Like

  2. We all grow up differently even is the same family. I don’t have to look far to see how my brothers are worlds apart in their personalities.

    Like

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