The Importance of Character

In the beginning there was dust. It settled on each thought that dared consider itself something to be remembered. Each notion formed by a memory and written in an ink that lit up synapses as it scratched away at an hourglass that turned only to turn again and spill its sand as its words remained in the mind, and mind alone.

It coated a laugh that could silence a room, lips lifted, eyes forced to the ground. It dampened snippets of conversation, memories sleepy and unwilling to be roused.

In the beginning there was nothing, very much as we have always been told. With the first breath there was a moment, the electric storm that brought a monster to life. By the end there was a catalyst, a metamorphosis, the dust waded through and tossed up in to the air to spin back to the ground as false starlight.

It could no longer settle. The books that were once memories locked in the past, stored away in the mind as remembrance for another day, became life.

Creatures that had been denied their existence crawled forward, their legs weak yet persistent, their grunts echoes, but echoes that ricocheted until they were heard. Men that should have been hanged for their tales and the women that should have knotted the nooses knocked like thunder, and insisted they be allowed to strike through lightning. The voices of the past demanded a beginning.

 

In the beginning there was dust.

But we are born of dust.

And what are stars if not

a beginning such as us.

 

The essence of a story lives in its characters. The plot bleeds through them and the impact of its memory is scarred across their features. When I begin a story, it begins with a character. There are no exceptions to this rule. They appear much as a friend I once knew as a child but are now grown. There is something in them that I recognize, something that tells me I have seen them before, but also something new and unknown, something uncertain.

They appear in mid speech, or playing out a part in a scene as though it’s already begun to be written and I need to keep up. I must keep up because they will wrap the story around them in snapshots, whisper secrets when I try to sleep, and dance riddles across paper until I take back control by relinquishing control and giving them what they want: to be written.

Despite the ease of their arrival, writing them effectively is often difficult, but through writing them I have learned that they are the reason I continue to write. To bring into being and develop characters that will be created in such a way to find a permanent home within a reader’s mind. To do this, I intend always to write a character as it wishes to be written. To create characters that just as we do, develop and live on as morally ambiguous and imperfect, as surreal and ageless, and as unknown whether their creation was for adult or child because that is for the reader to decide.

 

 

gykruk

Gykruk sat alone before the fire. Its flames cast shadows across the parchment that stretched out across his lap. He held the top of it down beneath his furred forearm, and clasped a quill between waxy claws.

“With Concerns to Character and Creature Creation” was all that had been scrawled across it. A feather rested between black lips as his mind worked to think back on what he had previously thought to write.

“1,” he noted down with carefully placed strokes. After combing down his pointed brows, he pushed the nib forward again.

 

 

With Concerns to Character and Creature Creation

 

  1. Let them come to you. If you have to force them, they ain’t ready, and if you have to beg ‘em, they ain’t there.
  2. Watch them. There ain’t no use in profiling ‘em because their socks don’t matter. If you want to know someone you throw ‘em to the fire and see ‘ow they handle the flames. (Tybuld if you’re reading this don’t go takin’ it literal with the imps again. I can’t be doin’ with the paperwork and the smell took weeks to get out yer tabard!)
  3. Ain’t no one alive who’s perfect, don’t insist they be either. They should be as imperfect and uncertain of their choices as you and me.

 

“Been looking for you everywhere!”

Tybuld balled into the room. Claws that held high were soon placed on hips and a look of concern replaced with frustration.

Jolted from his list, Gykruk sat upright in his chair and peered across the dimly lit room to the younger ghattan. He noticed the position of his hands and in response lifted one lengthy brow.

Tybuld, uncomfortably aware of his elder’s reaction, removed his hands and after a moment of shimmying them around pushed them to his sides.

“I didn’t realize you were takin’ inventory,” he said, his black eyes glancing at the paper across Gykruk’s lap.

“It ain’t inventory, it’s invent-ery” Gykruk replied, his triangular ears dipping as he turned back to his list. “It’s about story book characters.”

Tybuld crossed the room, his padded feet sticking to the wooden floor while his sharp curved toenails clipped against it. “What about them?”

“They’ve too much about them, that’s the problem!”

Gykruk stabbed the nib of the quill down at the parchment, hissing when he saw ink splatter out from it. “Curse you, Tybuld!”

He dabbed away at the splotches of black, while Tybuld plonked himself down on the rug in front of the fire and watched Gykruk. Once done with the neatening of his parchment, he began to draw the nib across the page again.

 

  1. Regardless of ‘ow the character might feel about it, they should be shoved in any number of situations. The reader will judge their actions because they are there to be judged and they’ll build upon their own personality through this.

 

Gykruk placed down his quill on to a thin-legged table beside him.

“You’re finished already?” Tybuld was leaning towards him, his angular face held in a chestnut furred claw. “I was ‘oping you’d read some to me. Or write some more, I like the scratchin’ sound the quill makes.”

“Probably reminds you of fleas,” Gykruk replied. “There ain’t no more to write. Characters belong in stories, not in ‘ow to lists.” He picked at something in his teeth, and with it still attached to his nail he pointed to Tybuld. “What did you need me for?”

“I don’t know,” Tybuld replied. His eyes locked on Gykruk, “Did you tell me to come ‘ere?”

Gykruk stood from his seat and tucked it under the table. “You let her use you again,” he said while rolling the parchment in to a scroll.

“Who?” Tybuld asked, looking over his shoulder, his back arching as he sunk his neck into it.

“Her.”

 

 

My intentions to allow characters a degree of their own creation stems from how I view their function in my stories, and what mark I want them to leave behind through my writing. The characters that have stayed with me from childhood to adulthood are the ones that helped shape who I am. That’s a characters true purpose, to live the hardships for you so you might gain a greater understanding of your own moral compass. This is what I wish to manifest through my stories, and through my voice, the ability to develop empathy and the confidence to be closer to understanding of self.

To do this, whether they are human, spider, or even sock, I hope for characters that make us question what it means to be human. We are made up of much more than biology and because of this our characters can cross all boundaries. Our imagination gives us the ability to anthropomorphize and if a character questions its existence, its place in the world, and is allowed to make mistakes as we often do then the form it takes ceases to matter.

The characters that should be written out are the ones that breathe as purely an extension to the author, a vessel to the author’s ego with no want for furthering the readers’ experience. These characters are often dull and they often wish to be perfect but in the process they bore. If a character is getting their every wish granted, then let their greed be shown. If they are beautiful, then scar them. If they are lustful, force them to be alone and show how quickly a starry-eyed romance can become desperation; that human necessity to find companionship written stark and screaming on the page. If a character fails to feel, then so will the reader.

I abhor the idea of characters being placed in a box. There are no new ideas, or thoughts, or desires, and there are no new characters, but this doesn’t mean that they should be written to a formula. I have rejected and let go of the rules when it comes to creating characters because it makes what should be organic rigid and false, and there is already enough of that in the world.

This means that I shouldn’t believe their creation to be as simple as writing down defining features. No, the physical appearance, unless it in some way shapes the character, should be the least of all concerns. What concerns the reader, and as such concerns me as the author, is the ability to use the characters to live out fantasies and to either strengthen or weaken their convictions.

If my stories can achieve anything, it is to be the home to characters such as these. It is to give a reader a playground with a cast of characters to see as enemies, to be betrayed, and to find true friendships behind the masks. It doesn’t matter that they are not tangible, they are real. The imagination is a powerful tool, one that is used to create but also one that is used to discover and accept the notion of “what if?”

When the final page is read, and each page before it turned over, I want the reader to have felt a change in their perception of the world and of their self. Adrenaline should course through them – for they have suffered and survived a dangerous situation alongside these characters; and a wish to remain should be held heavy in their heart. This is what I want to achieve through my writing, this is the mark I wish to leave on those that read my stories. It is the same sensation I felt throughout and at the end of every book from which a character that has stayed with me once dwelled, discovered and struggled to find a new part of them.

That is the development of character. No character should arrive complete, much as a stranger need not reveal all their secrets when they first shake your hand. Czekszantmihalyi wrote that “… if the artist were not tricked by the mystery, he or she might never venture into the unexplored territory.” and the same should be true of a reader. A character should lure them forward with the promise of possibility and this is precisely what I want my characters to do.

Through my writing, my words and worlds, I want them to act as guides. I want to provide a lantern that dims and brightens as words are offered up to a reader when their imagination meets mine, so that they might see through my eyes a place where the magical has firm roots in reality.

I believe that the lessons learned through the arts are invaluable, that they should never be sneered at and that the importance of the imagination and its creations should be revered as a powerful tool for human development.

I view my characters as elements to be used by the reader to discover their own truth. It allows them to live through situations they couldn’t otherwise experience, because what is reality and truth if not something to be questioned and explored.

As Neil Gaiman has said: “Truth is not in what happens but in what it tells us about who we are.”

11 thoughts on “The Importance of Character”

  1. This post inspired me! Thank you for writing such a wonderful thing!
    And I find it immensely curious as how when we are full of doubts we find words and little things in unexpected places that help us clear our minds. Your words were one of those.
    “I believe that the lessons learned through the arts are invaluable, that they should never be sneered at and that the importance of the imagination and its creations should be revered as a powerful tool for human development.”
    Thank you very much for helping me remember this. I guess now my only fear is to never reach a point where my art is this important, but to that the only solution is to keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading this post, I know it’s a hefty beast to get through! I’m glad it helped clear your mind, doubt and its accompanying brain fog are a nightmare to slug through. 🐌 (I understand it’s a snail but my phone has slug denial and so let’s pretend it’s a slug going on holiday).

      Ah, for sure keep writing! Given how much I get bogged down and don’t crack on with things though I gotta be careful what I preach! Easier said than done sometimes, eh? Ah well, practice makes perf– an irritable and tea fueled writer! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wonderful post! Really!! Kept me captivated to the end! I love how you threw examples in all the way through!! You are a gifted writer, my friend. Great look at your thoughts and examples of character development…bravo!

    Like

  3. Fascinating read, with some excellent tips throughout – thanks for sharing! 😀
    If you like, I was going to link to your blog for my next Sunshine Blogger Award as a way of hopefully connecting different bloggers together. No need to do the personal quiz if you’d prefer not to, but would you like your blog signposted for new readers to check out?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Tom! Thank you for reading. I don’t post content like this very often so I’m worried that you’d be signposting people to a blog that is mostly rambling. I’m fine with whatever you choose to do though. I’m actually looking for more bloggers to read so I’ll be heading over soon! Take it easy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You too! 😀 All the best with your blogging! Quite a few bloggers I’ve enjoyed also like blogging about their week / life experiences / quirky things they’ve noticed when out & about, so no need to worry; you’re in good company! ❤

        Like

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