A best-selling author gives her characters a genuine sense of self
I'm delighted to welcome Melissa Foster to my blog again today, celebrating the release of her best-selling novel, Come Back to Me. Click here for my review of Come Back to Me. Melissa doesn't just write great novels but she supports lots of other new novelists through the Women's Literary Cafe. If you head over there you'll be able to find out all about the great New Release Week starting today--what a great day to think about reading and writing good books and good characters. Over to you Melissa.
I love to read. I read everything from books and magazines to the backs of cereal boxes and candy wrappers. I eat that candy first, of course! What could be more fun than reading, learning, gathering data, or getting lost in someone else’s life? Well, I suppose, creating that life could be more fun, if you love to write. For me, I find reading and writing equally as exciting, though writing does hold a special spark for me.
Creating worlds and characters takes time, emotion, and energy. As I writer, I want to be sure and create characters that are easy to relate to and that incite a visceral reaction from readers, but there’s something else that comes into play, and it’s not often discussed—building the character’s sense of self.
As living, breathing people, there are many ways to find, or define, our sense of self. Some of us find that sense of self at a very young age, while others have a more difficult time, riding the coat tails and friendships of others until we’ve had time to build confidence, and recognize the things in life that we enjoy and gain from, separate from others. It’s not uncommon for people to find their sense of self late into their thirties. When developing characters, we authors don’t have the luxury of knowing them for that long (at least most of us don’t). We come into their lives when they’re 5, 10, 18, 36, 42—when they’ve already lived much of their lives. We meet them for the very first time without knowing their full history. We create their history (oh, what fun!).
I’ve found that the most interesting stories to write are the ones where characters haven’t quite reached a full understanding of who they are are and their own unique value, and it’s developed as the story unfolds. I create complete backstories, including arguments characters have had that have shaped who they are, and schools they’ve attended, failed relationships and occupational achievements, all building into their sense of self. Sometimes, as a character’s sense of self is being developed, I become introspective, and begin to question my own motivations.
When I wrote Beau’s character, in COME BACK TO ME, he grew from a very confident man who drew from his career to develop his sense of self, to showing a more vulnerable side, and recognizing that his sense of self was not tied to his work at all—it came from his heart. I won’t add any spoilers here, for those who have yet to read the novel, but I will say this—I did find Beau’s introspection beautiful. Painful, gut wrenching, yes, but beautiful just the same.
While finding one’s sense of self can sometimes be achieved, I’d have to say that one’s sense of self is also, probably, ever-changing. As we mature and our skills and desires change, so does our ability to give, and our ability to look inside our own motivations. I don’t believe in the old saying, “An old dog can’t learn new tricks.” When we stop learning, reaching, trying to become better, stronger, more giving, we become complacent, stopping our personal growth, which then stops our sense of self. The next time that you read a book, let your mind wander to an introspective view point, see where it takes you. You might find that there is a slightly modified self waiting for you.
Thank you Melissa. I certainly found Beau's changing sense of self a powerful image in Come Back to Me.
Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, she's written for Calgary's Child Magazine and Women Business Owners Magazine, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family. Melissa's interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping women see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.
Chat with her on The Women's Nest
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