If you’re a writer, then most likely you’ve heard the piece of advice saying something along the lines of: “Write what you know.”
When I first heard this Writerly Law, I resisted big time. Mostly because I translated that as write only subjects that related to your everyday life. I wanted to write about magic, and fight scenes of horse-riding, sword wielding knights against leathery, flame breathing dragons. Unfortunately, I’ve never even seen a real sword in real life, never rode a horse and I doubt dragons really exist today.
Luckily, I’ve come to realize that’s not what that means at all! And even if it did, it wouldn’t be too hard to research those things online or at a library, which is probably something a writer should do with anything they’re writing that they don’t know in intimate detail.
The saying means that you should, at least in my opinion, write what you observe.
So, where am I going with this?
I’m noticing something about my brother, something I’ve observed. A lot of times, he says one thing, but does another. I know, this is like obvious human behavior.
He says he’s not hungry. But if I cook and set the plate full of food in front of him, he will eat it and a second helping.
I know it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but I’m socially retarded like that at times.
But the point is, characters should act the same way.
They should say something and mean something else. They shouldn’t know what they want on a conscious level, even if everything they do is obviously pointing to the specific thing they desire more than anything, even if they don’t know it.
I’m writing about this today because…I’m noticing my characters lack this. Or at least, in my novel.
They’re too vocal on what they want and they already know exactly what it is. There’s no deep, unsettling, unpleasant feeling you have when you don’t know what you want or what to do.
I suppose that is the difference, among other things, between a character created by a master and a newbie.
It is my personal definition that the best, most amazing stories are ones where you take something that is completely outside our realm of reality and make it seem as real as possible, the more fantastic the idea is and the realer it feels, the more amazing it is.
To do this you take the things of real life and integrate it into your story, even if it’s about fairies and unicorns.
Okay, I want real examples! Well more like need them cause I’m still learning and learning by example is the easiest way to learn.
Writers! I would be much honored if you would provide your own examples from your very own writing of either something that happened to your character or what your character did that contradicts what he or she has said and/or demonstrates some other human quality.
Or, if you’re a non-writer, what would you like to see more of in regards to characters in fiction?