conjuring-realistic-characters-in-novelOur thanks to Syril Levin Kline, Author of “Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against The Dead” for this guest contribution on conjuring realistic characters.

It seemed strange and yet familiar – taking a break from writing to enjoy a walk in the park, halfway expecting to run into a few good friends.

That’s the “familiar” part, since lots of my friends enjoy the park as much as I do. But having closeted myself at home to work on my novel, I knew that on some level I fully expected to meet an entirely different set of friends on my walk.

That’s the “strange” part. The friends I expected to meet didn’t live around the corner or over on the next block. I never saw them pumping gas or buying groceries at the local health food store. Instead, these friends were real historical figures who had lived more than 400 years ago in Elizabethan England. Having spent years studying their personal machinations, I had come to know them so well that I felt like I was channeling them.

It wouldn’t have felt the least bit strange (well, sort of) to encounter William Shaxper, Ben Jonson, Queen Elizabeth I or the 17th Earl of Oxford in the park, or anywhere else in my immediate vicinity. It was as if they had become my permanent house guests! That’s how real they had become, and that was the reality I wanted to share with my readers.

While these serendipitous encounters sound like episodes from “The Twilight Zone,” I’m very sure that other authors experience the same thing.

In order to write any novel, the writer must learn enough about a particular epoch to establish verisimilitude and make the story believable. She must know her characters very well in every dimension of their natures. In that way, they come alive in the hologram of the writer’s mind. She can then sit back while the characters take over the story and act it out, unfolding the multi-dimensional aspects of its web so that no thread is lost.

Here are a few steps on how to snuggle into your time machine and meet your historical dramatis personae face-to-face:

  1. Be open to learning as much as you can about the time period. For example, in Elizabethan England, the printing press was in use, but few people were literate. Because of this, the public playhouses served as a method of mass communication, reaching different audiences than those who sat in church pews.
  2. Ask yourself whether you believe that human nature has changed with Time, or whether Time has changed human nature. Are social norms different today? Did people behave differently in the past, and if so, why?
  3. Be bold enough to go against type and challenge orthodox assumptions. For example, my novel is about the centuries-old mystery of the Shakespeare authorship. To write it, I interwove biographical events from the characters’ lives and found that their partnership led them to enjoy satisfaction and endure conflict. Meanwhile, as I wrote, the plot thickened.
  4. Be a kinesthetic writer. Feel the action of your story as if acting in a play. Feel your characters’ body language as they experience different emotions and situations.
  5. Unlike a printed photograph ripped in half, a divided hologram shows more than one piece of the same image with slightly different points of view. That’s why it’s important to understand the different points of view of your characters. They won’t always agree about a particular event, and that’s highly desirable since it adds to the conflict that keeps your story moving.
  6. Create empathy for your characters. For example, what would it feel like for an author to be forced to write under a pseudonym while another man takes credit for his work? How would it feel for a middle class commoner to become a wealthy shareholder in the Elizabethan playhouses?
  7. As in real life, the best-laid plans often go awry. Turn up the heat as the stakes rise. What life-or-death issues are there for your characters, and what happens if their plans fail? Are the characters altruistic, or are they self-interested? Do they evolve throughout your book, and do they change their feelings or beliefs as time passes?

Once you have met your historically-based, multi-dimensional characters, they will interact with each other and build the story for you. From then on, it’s your job to write it well.

And remember, if your characters become so real to you that you could meet them for dinner and let them buy you a drink, you’re not losing your sanity. You’re gaining a fine tuned novel.

IMG_1176shakespeares-changelingSyril Levin Kline is an educator who helps students develop thinking skills via creative writing, storytelling and theater. Her novel, viagra mulheres 2011 buspar overdose phobia essay go prezzo farmaco cialis 5 mg a doctoral dissertation or thesis old typewriter with a paper rar case study research report cialis e ciproxin cialis prices at cvs rap music negative influence youth essay enter restate a thesis kamagra et aspirine forum al maschile viagra cialis photo booth source can i get viagra in korea should i tell my girlfriend i took viagra go to link annual law student essay competition enter Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against The Dead, recently won the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction in the Elizabethan/Tudor category. Her book has received critical acclaim from Kirkus Reviews and readers everywhere.

3 thoughts on “Seven Steps to Conjuring Realistic Characters Into Your Novel

  • January 26, 2016 at 8:41 am

    I think I just saw my next hero walking by!
    Thanks, Syril. Great article.

  • January 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Hi, Syril, I met you in Bellingham. Glad to see your book is doing so well. Knew it would! (Enjoy the snow.)

    • January 22, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      Hey, Nancy! Thanks! So good to hear from you. Bellingham CAC 2015 was sensational, wasn’t it? Hope all’s well with you. Blizzard here. [sigh]

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