Befriending Characters

I am currently reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which aside from being very entertaining is giving me a lot of things to think about. I have heard multiple writers reference and recommend this book and now I see why! I just hit a section about characters and dialogue and had a thought pop into my head that I felt I needed to write about.

Writing about characters is totally different from creating a storyline. It is like reaching into a different world where fully formed people live. They are just as real as we are. They live in this world waiting for a writer to open up a portal and look in on them so that they can tell their story.

They each have their own voice and experiences, and they dictate their lives for you to put on paper. As they talk you learn more about them the way you do a new friend. You get to know them so well that you can predict how they would respond to events before they can even tell you the end of the story. You understand their sense of humor and know exactly what joke to tell to make them lose their shit.

The novel I have been writing is technically finished, but I am still learning things about my characters. I picked them from the void; I gave them names; I learned about some of the events that made them who they are. I love every one of them like real people. Sometimes I feel like I am this omniscient friend who cringes at the thought of knowing what will happen, unable to tell them of the bad road ahead.

I laugh with them and cry with them as if they are real, because somewhere they already are. Their job is to speak and mine is to listen. Their dreams are ours. I pick them out of their world and bring them into ours so that they can be seen. And everyone dreams to be seen.


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