Rhyming titles aside, this is a question inspired by a member of NaNoWriMo’s Facebook group. “Does anyone else find the characters you write motivate you to do things in real life?” she wants to know. I’m giving her all the credit for what has become of this random rant even though I don’t have her permission to use her name (sorry).
It got me thinking though. Do they?
Think about your favorite MCs. They’re never just your average nobody (well, sometimes they start out that way). A story with believable characters can’t exist without progressive character development, because everyone grows and changes when they come face-to-face with a problem and have to, at some point, stumble into its resolution. Your favorite characters are probably the ones who do some pretty awesome stuff to get to where they need to go, or defeat whichever villain they’re battling, or whatever.
What happens when you’re reading a book, and a character overcomes an obstacle you’ve been trying to figure a way around for months? You’re inspired. You suddenly want to put that book down, get up and go crush your real-life obstacle with no fear. Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can’t. But that character’s actions have successfully motivated you to, in some way or another, change your life.
The same thing can happen when we’re writing. Often, unintentionally, our characters end up fighting battles we’re very familiar with, because it is our first instinct to turn to topics and situations we know well in order to draw from our experiences and fuel our prose. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, as long as we expand our horizons every now and again, too. Putting our characters through the same things we went through adds an emotional component we can’t help but infuse into our stories.
When our characters conquer their demons, whatever form that takes on in your current project, we are satisfied, and therefore our readers probably will be, too. If we want our readers to feel motivated to do something positive in real life, in response to something a character has done, we should be able to feel it too.
And then this question comes to mind: why do we write characters that do things that motivate us to do things?
It’s very difficult to write dull characters. Sometimes you have to, maybe it’s just their personality and they’re a foil to your vibrant MC. But I think a lot of times we tend to write inspiring characters because we want to feel inspired, too. We feel good when our characters accomplish something big. It makes us want to stop writing for a second (gasp!) and go accomplish something big, too, right here, right now.
Being inspiring by being inspired? Being inspired to inspire? Just roll with the inspiration and see where it takes you.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter.