Daily Archives: November 1, 2017

Guest Post – Emma Hartley

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How Do Writers Build Authentic Characters?


How do writers build authentic characters? How do we come up with our ideas? These are the questions I am most often asked by aspiring writers and readers alike. I will venture here to discuss some of the motivations and inspirations I use for story and character development, with the caveat that everyone does this differently. These are my methods—they are not for everyone.

Most of my characters grow from seeds. They might start out with a vague characteristic such as hair color or an unusual mannerism, then germinating into a more fully developed person as the story grows. Elwyn, in THE NATURE OF ENTANGLED HEARTS, for instance, grew from the seed of my own insecurity. She avoids mirrors and dreads her reflection. Those simple characteristics allowed me to grow Elwyn into the dynamic, complex and nuanced character that she is. Writing in her voice allowed me to show her feisty attitude, her temper and her creativity. Her inner landscape is rich. These characteristics blossomed as I wrote in her voice. To continue this growth, I asked a million questions. Who is she? What does she love about life? What bothers her? Is she clumsy or graceful? Is she smart? Is she driven? Does she question the world around her to the point of incapacity sometimes? Why would she sabotage her relationships with men? As I asked myself these questions, and as Elwyn grew into the character she is, I realized many things about her. Her past was illuminated, her motivation to create her artwork became clear. She grew out of that tiny seed into a person as real as you or me.

My plots grow in much the same way. They germinate from small ideas – tiny moments from my own life that perplexed me or vexed me, moments that made me ask questions about the nature of love, of consciousness, of the universe around us. These essential questions helped me grow my stories into fully formed plot lines. I weave many threads together into riveting conclusions. I don’t always see the endings until I am close to them. It’s rare for me to see the ending of my story at the beginning. My writing style is linear, and the story grows with my characters. Once I get to the mid point of my work, I can start mapping out the trajectory of the plot and I will often make a rough outline for it.

I love working in this organic manner. Growing stories and characters from seed is a fulfilling and rewarding aspect of writing for me. It’s like watching a child grow up – I am so proud of the people my characters become. Even if they have made some iffy choices along the way, because let’s face it, who hasn’t? Part of the fun is letting the characters’ lives unfold authentically, which, in turn, drives a riveting plot.

The Nature of Entangled Hearts


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