Getting All Emo on Your Characters
My friend Tawny Weber is talking about me in her recent blog post at the Romance Bandits. Yep, I’m the one “who writes sci-fi/fantasy/romance and she mentioned that she’s a thinker vs a feeler, so she shows this incredible action and detailed plot structure, but her characters can be on fire and barely show an actual reaction.”
That might be a tad of an overstatement — and Tawny’s characters do not emote over toilet paper (Jim collapsed onto the floor, a spare square in his hand. He had expected quilted, but Candy bought the cheap kind again. Didn’t she know how sensitive he was? Didn’t she care? Once again his needs never mattered, only hers did. When would he ever learn? See, I can emote over TP.).
However, I do think personality types play a role in how we writers discover our stories, specifically what we write first. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I’m an ESTJ, but on the fence on the Extroversion/Introversion spectrum (right now I’m obviously in full-on E-mode). The first time through a scene I’m writing the action and dialog, and my characters on a macro level are following their external GMCs (Goal, Motivation and Conflict). I always have to go back with a special eye on my character’s emotions. The advantage to this is that emotion gets some extra attention, but I do sometimes wish my character’s emotions were closer to the surface. However, deeply buried emotions are a plus for the kind of characters I write about — those who need to keep their cool in high-stress situations. My main protagonist can’t have an emotional breakdown when she’s trying to infiltrate an enemy compound. Those emotions still have to be there, though, creating tension in every line, in every thought, even if she doesn’t give into them until later.
For my fellow writers, how do you think your personality affects how you write? As a reader, do you like character-driven, deeply emotional stories, or stories driven more by the situation a character finds herself in?
One thought on “Getting All Emo on Your Characters”
I totally agree with personality playing a role in what you write first. I tend to go for getting the action and the plot right, and sometimes I’ll even rejigger my characters to match it better. I don’t know my Myers-Briggs thing, but I’m more logic and ideas over empathy, and so that would match your theory regarding what I pay attention to first. But then I do pay a lot of attention to characters’ emotions later, and work extra hard on getting them right.
I remember this quote from Nabakov, in response of E.M. Forster saying his characters sometimes misbehave and run away with the book, Nabakov goes, “my characters are galley slaves. They do what I tell them.” Something like that.