By Hannah Conway
When it comes to writing, making characters isn’t my strong suit. Sigh.
The plot comes natural to me. My mind wields a storyline that I can only hope to portray with words. Yet, in order to become a better writer, to deepen and sharpen my craft, I need developed characters. Not any characters, but characters that reach readers. Solid, three dimensional, and realistic characters that jump off the page. The kind with talents, flaws, likes, and dislikes.
The kind of characters who believe…lies?
Because we believe lies. Our readers believe lies.
We believe subtle untruths that may even seem harmless, like:
I’ll never be good at this.
I have to be in control, because I can’t trust anyone else to be.
Everything has to be perfect.
Our enemy prowls around looking for someone to devour, and in moments of trauma–physical or emotional, big, small, and even seemingly insignificant– he speaks a lie to us. Without awareness, we often accept that lie, and that lie has the potential to affect our lives and the choices we make. It can determine the chances we take, or the ones we don’t. It can control if we’re living in freedom or confinement.
Characters experience the same journey, as do our readers. Their actions, and choices, correspond with the lie, and drive the storyline of their life across each plot point.
At some point in the story, our character realizes this lie. They are able to confess it, and be freed. The lie can be broken and replaced with the truth–God’s truth. Now our character gets to live in newfound freedom.
We too get to uncover the enemy’s lie(s) in our life, repent of it, and ask Jesus to write the truth everywhere that lie was written. We get to live in freedom, and one day we’ll live in a new world with Him!
On the flipside, our character can choose to keep the lie–bummer. We are also free to choose the shackles of this lie–more of a bummer.
How to begin with this whole lying character developing thing?
Step 1: We need to find the lie.
Start in prayer.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any lies in your life. Write them down. Repent of them, and ask God to write His truth where the lie once resided.
Perhaps you and your character could share a lie– experience freedom from its bondage together. Writing can be quite therapeutic.
Still struggling? Feel free to use these lies below to help weave a web.
No one will ever love me.
I have to take care of myself, because no one else wants to, or will.
I can never let anyone get too close, or they’ll get hurt.
I have to be perfect in order to be accepted.
Step 2: We find the moment that provoked the lie.
Let’s get creative!
The moment could be something as trivial as a parent scolding our character for breaking a vase, or a pet running away. Perhaps our character remembers being made fun of, or feeling let down. It could also be as traumatic as a drowning experience, attack, or break up. Whatever it is, no matter how large or small, the provoking moment will reflect the lie.
Step 3: Know our character’s biggest fear.
Why? Because this fear will not only make our character more realistic, but it will drive us straight to the darkest moment, and beyond.
Note: the biggest fear will also revolve around the lie.
What is that biggest fear? Well, this is where we get even more creative!
An example could be something like:
Lie: Jane believes she will never be good at writing. She’s an adult now, and still believes this, even though she has such a passion for writing.
Provoking moment: She believes this lie because a teacher used her essay to show the class how not to write. A few kids snickered. Ugh, detrimental to a 7th grader!
Biggest Fear: Jane’s greatest fear is now having to write, and having someone read what she’s written aloud…to a crowd! Yet, she has to take Public Speaking 101 to get her degree! Aaah!
And wah-lah, we’ve got the makings of a realistic character, and a story!
Of course there’s more to character building, as I’m still learning, but a lie isn’t a bad place to start.
Happy writing and many blessings!
Hannah Conway is an Army Wife, Mother, Speaker and Author of The Wounded Warrior’s Wife, and Wedding a Warrior from Olivia Kimbrell Press. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland from The Blythe Daniel Literary Agency. Connect with Hannah at www.hannahrconway.com.