Who the Heck Are You?

Gee, it’s nice to post on IWSG day, again. I miss blogging on a regular basis.
The Insecure Writers Support Group is brought to you by a host of hard working people and created by Alex J. Cavanaugh who is also hardworking. There is a list of IWSG participants here. The IWSG has a website here and you may look them up on Facebook.
This is the question of the month should you want to use it:
Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
For me, fleshing out characters is an ongoing struggle. More than likely, I have in my mind the story, the setting, maybe a theme, but my characters arrive packaged flat, without faces and lacking personality. I might know if they are male or female, but they do not function in my story as characters.
Now, let me tell you about my loveseat. (WAY to change the subject, T.) I bought this loveseat once from overstock.com. It came delivered to my doorstep, in one box, many pieces, but it was easy to assemble. When it was time for the cushions to be put on the loveseat, I needed to assemble them, too. The instructions read that I must insert the enclosed flattened foam inside each cover. Those same instructions said that once they were released from their packaging, the cushion forms would inflate on their own. Hours later, they were still flat and uncomfortable to sit on. This was not the loveseat that I wanted! So, I made a decision to contact the company the next day to have the loveseat returned. I went to bed.
The next morning, I’m sure you have guessed by now, the cushions had magically come to life, all fluffed and puffed out as cushions go and could now function as intended!
For someone who is character development challenged, I wish it were that easy for me: 1) Take  flat characters out of package. 2) Insert in story. 3) Go to bed. 4) Wake up to magically well rounded, nicely formed characters who will function as needed.
It doesn't happen like that for me. I usually start with a questionnaire kind of thing, asking each, “Who the heck are you?” It's when I say to a character, “Who the heck have you become?” that I know I am on the right track.
To answer the IWSG question, I rarely insert me into my characters. I’m way too boring. But I have wondered, can you write fiction without characters? Hmm.


  1. I usually have trouble writing characters and tend to think mine can be also be flat. Like you, I also wish there was an easier way. I hope you kept your loveseat! It's nice to meet you. :)

  2. Smiling at your story about the love-seat. And how I wish it applied to rather a lot of life.
    And this reader can well understand how character building is a challenge for writers. It is in real life too.

  3. I loved your post! It had me laughing with the love-seat analogy. If only it were so simple ...

  4. lol would be grand if they sprung to life like the loveseat overnight.

  5. Can you write anything without characters? I guess maybe when you are writing about a science experiment with straight facts, you don't need characters, but I perceive anything written with emotion as a "character". Like something you want your readers to connect to/with.

    An example: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." – Ernest Hemmingway. I mean, no there isn't a character, but you see that there was/is a character. Someone is giving away unworn baby shoes, so that's one character. What's the background? Why are they selling the shoes? Alternatively, what happened to the baby? … That's another character. So, even if the character isn't spelled out (green eyes, brown hair, 5'8"), you still have a thing to connect with, a story that could be told.

    Anyway, just my ho.

    With Love,

  6. I like that analogy! If they fluffed on their own, it would be so easy.

  7. Hi Teresa - love the flat seat love cushions and then they become puffed up and happy after a night's stay ... surely that's what love seats are for ... actually no idea what a love seat is ... but who worries!! Good to see you around - cheers Hilary

  8. That is an amazing analogy. This formula works for me ever time. I start with an awesome What If question. Then I go to bed with flat characters and wake up to the best character development ever!

  9. The loveseat cushions was, as others have already pointed out, a great and hilarious analogy. I'm fascinated by the fact that you don't think you slip yourself (or folks you know) into your writing. That is, I think, unusual. My main characters are always limitedly developed when I first start writing. I don't usually notice that until about 1/3 of the way through a piece, at which point I have to stop and engage in a "get to know you" conversation with them via an interview that I write out by hand w/ pen on paper. The writing process is varied and always interesting. Thanks for the post. :)

  10. Very interesting metaphor. I guess I start a work of fiction with equal helpings of setting, character and some sort of inciting incident. But the characters/cushions do tend to slowly inflate over time.

  11. LOL, love your mindset. Yes, give the character to evolve and puff out. Happy IWSG.

  12. I did an exercise years ago that may help a little. Have each character write you a letter telling you how they landed up in such a story. Why they are there and how they plan to deal with the situation.

    The first time I did it it was weird, but I did learn a lot. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  13. Love the analogy! My characters tend to spring from an emotion and then build from there. Usually the emotion is experienced during their 'black moment' - which makes my life a little easier at times. Although I have to figure out how they got there! :)

  14. I've never heard of needing to assemble cushions, how funny! Characters can be rough, but nothing worth doing comes easy. That's what they say, right?

  15. I'm not sure if it'll help or not, but my ISWG post this month was about a new web-based app I'm using that actually walks you through the process of fleshing out your characters. It's called BeemGee. Maybe it can help.

  16. I'm the same, I normally get a story idea first rather than fully-fleshed characters knocking on my door, so to speak. I wouldn't worry too much. Half the fun is getting to know them as the plot unfolds!

  17. I have never heard of a loveseat you assemble at home, but it makes a great analogy! It would be wonderful if our characters could fluff themselves out :)

  18. Very interesting analogy.
    I think characters take time to evolve.
    Lots of writers get to know their characters questionnaires, or character diary entries etc.
    Happy October!

  19. What a great analogy! I love it. And the idea of a magic, overnight-inflating sofa intrigues me.

    Thanks for the kind words on my blog this month. It was great to "meet" you.


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