Characterization Through Discovery

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

One thing that stays consistent about my writing, no matter which genre or style I attempt, is that the characters are rarely created. They don’t leap full form from my head, miniature Athenas, constructed perfectly and as I want them to be.


Instead, they exist, dare I say, completely, but I need to discover them. Their quirks, personalities, everything, I can’t really form it. I can only write, slip them into situations and see what happens. Amazingly, most of them succeed in this way. It isn’t just that one of my characters loves to cook; he makes risotto when stressed.

Most times, when I attempt to force characters, they rebel. One of them, a surgeon named Pryce who I came up with for some fantasy Victorian short stories, was supposed to be a real backstabber. He decided that he wasn’t, rather, he was a real sweetheart. And I came up with his counterpart, my version of HG Wells’ Griffin, the Invisible Man, who, despite his invisibility, allows his vanity to reign. Did I know that about either of them when I started writing? No, but I do now.

Writing these characters is discovery. I have to coax these details out them. Some have full fledged opinions that they spit and spew without a second thought. Others are quiet. All are enigmatic. Imagine my surprise when I realized that one character whom I thought was a confirmed bachelor was actually happily married with two daughters. It’s integral to his character.