Growing characters

More exciting than any writing updates … yesterday there was a bear in a tree in the yard across the street!!!

Bear!!!
Bear!!!

Okay, so it’s a little hard to see … but there’s a black blob in the middle of that photo that’s actually a bear. About thirty minutes later he came down from the tree and we all skedaddled – bears are big!!!

I’m about to start week 5 of the character development class I’ve been taking, which means I’m thinking a lot about characters. This bear reminded me of a novel a friend of mine is working on. In it there’s a bear character who is utterly horrifying at first, but by the end of the novel I wanted to hug it. This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but take my word on this one – to go from nightmare-inducing to endearing is a drastic change.

Part of what’s fun about writing is figuring out how your characters learn and grow. Sometimes it’s totally by chance, and sometimes you’re architecting it behind the scenes. With my first novel, a writer friend of mine once said “this is what Emma thinks she wants, but what does she really want?” As soon as he said that I realized that Emma – like all of us – had both conscious and unconscious desires, and in her case the two were very much not in sync. So I modified the story to have Emma realize what her unconscious wanted, and that brought some conflict to the surface that made the story much richer.

One of the stories I’m working on right now has a similar issue. There’s a bad guy, who clearly is doing bad things, but underneath it he’s not entirely bad. My task is to figure out how to make him feel – well, maybe not likable, but understandable. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.

And speaking of character growth, here’s a photo of Rosie jumping at the agility field. This is a dog who spent most of her first year with us hiding behind the couch. Yay, Rosie! 🙂

Yay, Rosie!!!
Yay, Rosie!!!

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