QOTW: Do You Become Your Character?

24 Sep

This week, the question comes from Kairee-Anne, who asks:

Do you ever feel like you become your characters when and after you write about them?


This question really made me think about what’s happening in my head when I’m writing. Do I ever feel like I AM the character? No. I’m still me. But I guess the closest approximation of what’s happening is that I’m like a computer running a program. I don’t become the program, I simply use it for a while.

-The Writer Converting Three Books Into One!


I don’t think I ever feel like the characters I’m writing… but I do feel as though I begin to roleplay as them in my mind. And often I’ll find myself thinking, “What would Danae do?” or “How would Wen react?”.

-The Writer in Publishing Working On Her First Novel





I definitely slip into a different “persona” for each story. Each story has a different mood/color scheme/feel to it. I don’t really “become” my character (that would be an interesting situation for my friends and family!), but I get in their heads very deeply, which means it can be hard for me to work seriously on more than one big story at once. I’m too deeply entrenched in the voice for each of my books for me to switch easily. However, this only lasts for as long as I’m actively writing/editing!

Often, if I’m trying to gain insight on a character, though, I either write present tense summaries of their past or journal entries from their point of view 🙂

-The Writer Who Just Signed With An Agent!


I do “become” the character when I write to a certain extent. But usually only for the amount of time that I’m writing. Sometimes, though, a character’s emotion will stick with me and make me gloomy, happy, whatever. So, I don’t really become the character totally but there are elements of their experience that I take away.

-The Newest LTWF Contributor!


I don’t know if I become the character so much as I become the mood of the story. Does that even make sense? I can’t really become the characters, but whatever the mood of that particular story is, I can slip into fairly easily. And, like Vee, it will stick with me beyond the time I spend writing. And honestly, it’s probably good I don’t become my characters since it seems that, lately, a lot of them are killers :-p

The Writer Who’s Loving Her Internship


I’ve really struggled with this question, because my answer reveals an “Easter egg” that I hide in all my novels.  Without saying too much, let me just say this:  I have a name that I insert into every manuscript, and that character name is supposed to represent me.  Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect system.  My newest idea is a period piece, and since the name is contemporary, I’m going to have to tweak it, I guess, but I’ll try to keep it close enough that a very observant reader would catch it.  Also, all the characters that appear in the first draft don’t necessarily make it into the final draft, and I wouldn’t preserve a character I needed to eliminate just for the sake of keeping the name in the manuscript.  But I do always begin a story with a character who is meant to represent me in the world of the book.

-The Writer Out on Submissions


I’ve never felt like I was the character, though when I write emotional scenes, I try to pull up those emotions in myself and analyze them so I know how to show that my characters are feeling the same thing. When I’m writing first person narratives it often feels like the character is telling me the story and even when I slip into her head, I’m not her, I’m just poking around.

-The Writer Revising Between Queries


Oh, I definitely embrace my characters while I write about them. I mean, I’m obviously not going to go around assassinating people while I’m writing from Celaena’s POV in QUEEN OF GLASS, but I definitely channel her feelings, usually by acting out the scenes before/while I write them. I’ve always had a mirror either on or by my desk so I can study my expressions/movements. There’s one scene in QUEEN OF GLASS where Celaena is lying on the ground, half-dead–and you can bet good money that I spent about 30 minutes lying on the floor in front of my wall-sized/giant mirror, trying my best to put myself in her head. It sounds totally bonkers, I know.

Maybe I’m just unnaturally attached to my heroines, but if I have to write a particularly upsetting scene, I definitely feel their pain and anger. Those feelings can stay with me long after I’ve stopped writing for the day. I guess all of this craziness is just part of the fun of writing, right?

The Writer With Her First Book Deal


Do YOU ever find yourself channeling your characters?




14 Responses to “QOTW: Do You Become Your Character?”

  1. authorguy September 24, 2010 at 6:15 AM #

    I never created a character out of whole cloth, or spent any time at all trying to decide his favorite color etc. They are created entire from my own self, and I spend my time discovering them. I can’t become them because I already am them.

    Marc Vun Kannon

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 24, 2010 at 11:22 AM #

      Marc, that’s pretty awesome. And it makes a lot of sense, too. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Chantal September 24, 2010 at 8:17 AM #

    My characters often have bits of myself in them, maybe it’s some of my flaws, or how I react to certain things, or hobbies, or political standpoints. So small parts of them often reflect myself. And if my characters have the strength to improve themselves, I find I also have motivation to try as well 🙂

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 24, 2010 at 11:24 AM #

      Chantal, what a wonderful observation about the potential for self-improvement for the writer while creating the character arc! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Victoria Dixon September 24, 2010 at 11:23 AM #

    More like I tune into the emotions of the characters. That’s really hard on my husband! I’ll be perfectly happy, think of a scene I’ve worked on and bam, I do the whole manic switch into a different mood. LOL

    • Julie Eshbaugh September 24, 2010 at 11:26 AM #

      Hey Victoria, thanks for your comment! I do the same thing with the major mood swings while I’m working on characters. God help the whole house if one of my characters is angry! 😉 I usually go tuck myself away to avoid misunderstandings.

  4. Julie Eshbaugh September 24, 2010 at 11:32 AM #

    Sarah, I bet you were a big fan of playing “pretend” as a child. I was too! 🙂

    • svonnah September 24, 2010 at 12:14 PM #

      Now that I’m older, the thing that strikes me the most about children playing is that they preface each sentence with ‘pretend.’ “Pretend winter is coming and we have to harvest food or we’ll starve! Pretend there’s stormclouds ahead. Pretend you broke your ankle and I’ll have to carry you! Pretend you need to go out hunting for food!”

      I played a lot of ‘house’ in the woods when I was a kid…

  5. Alanna September 24, 2010 at 2:59 PM #

    My characters already are parts of me – to an extent, I write what I know.

    I often find myself writing characters with dead fathers, for example, because my dad died when I was 10 and I don’t quite know how to realistically write a character who isn’t dealing with that pain — I’ve tried, but those characters always seem more flat.

    So yeah, aspects of myself end up projected onto the characters but they’re not and never will be me – sometimes they’ll end up with similar likes or dislikes or past experiences or opinions or personality traits, but those aren’t really the things that make me who I am (I guess it’s kind of like how a parent and child have similarities but they’re not the same).

    Characters are like distorted mirrors, even if they’re reflecting me the overall image isn’t the same.

    Sorry, I’m rambling… anyway, no, I don’t become the character – I get inside their head (it’s weird saying that seeing as the characters are inside MY head), but if I close my eyes and picture a scene, I picture it like a movie, not through the eyes of the character.

    • Kat Zhang September 25, 2010 at 10:58 AM #

      This is a great, well-thought out answer, Alanna! I sometimes picture my scenes in “third person” like a movie as well, but for some first person books, I tend to see stuff as if I were in my protag’s body. I really like your parent/child and distorted mirror analogies 🙂

  6. Renee September 24, 2010 at 4:08 PM #

    I never used to get into the head of my characters and really feel along with them until the heroine of my first completed novel came along. There’s a scene where she has to ditch her brother and her friends in order to run away to a place that terrifies her, and in the scene where she makes her escape to that place my heart was pounding. I absolutely felt her fear and desperation. It was one of the coolest feelings ever!

    • Kat Zhang September 25, 2010 at 10:56 AM #

      That is really cool, Renee! Sometimes I find myself making facial expression like the ones my characters are making ;P

  7. tymcon September 25, 2010 at 4:00 AM #

    Lol this is more proof that I need to work on my charactersXD I never really got into my characters before. They keep changing:S

    • Kat Zhang September 25, 2010 at 10:54 AM #

      Haha, I think it might be a time thing, too. Like once you’ve been working on a story for a year or more, you start getting very attached 🙂

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