by Donna L. Rich
If I had a photographic mind to capture the multitudes of personalities I’ve encountered over this Christmas season at the malls, I’d have enough characters to fill a book a month for the next ten years. Nevertheless, I don’t have that amazing mind, and it takes much work for me to craft my characters into dynamic, believable individuals. How about you?
Whatever your answer, if you want an instant education on the art of capturing characters perfectly, read Charles Dickens’ novels. He wrote what he knew and took most, if not all, of his characters from real life. In his day, he was known as a spokesman for the disadvantaged and the poor in England. He knew their plight well because he lived it.
Charles’ father lived such a generous life that he eventually ended up in prison for not paying his own debts. Charles was forced out of the security of childhood and was sent to work in a shoe-blacking factory at the age of twelve (can you imagine that?) in order to help the family pay their bills. During his years in poverty, he paid to stay in a boarding house while he sent the remaining money home to his family.
Eventually, his father was released from prison and scraped together the money to send Charles to Wellington Academy. Some think that Charles’ love for fiction took wing during his three-year stay at Wellington. Nevertheless, the school became another experience from which Dickens could fashion his well-known characters, due to the poverty conditions under which the school operated and the sordid ruthlessness of the men who worked there.
Dickens crusaded on social issues and used the power of fiction to change public opinion on discrimination against the poor. One of his most famous books, A Christmas Carol, the first in a series of five Christmas books, is cherished around the world. Many say that Dickens wrote the novel in a matter of weeks because he had to pay bills for the birth of his fifth child.
What a motivation he had to write, but don’t we have our own motivations, as well? We all live a life from which we can extract fascinating and insightful characters. Hopefully, we don’t live in the conditions Charles did, but do we not have abilities and motivations similar to what he had?
As 2011 draws near its end, one thing will persist into 2012. While we live in a world of fiction where we can create passionate characters of our choosing with amazing qualities, we must never lose our hold on the reality of life. We are not fictitious characters. We are genuinely flawed people overwhelmed with grateful and thankful hearts because we stay grounded in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
While there are many things from this past year we might have done or said differently, we must never forget His mercy and grace for all of us and His promise in Romans 5:8. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Have a blessed new year in Him!
Donna L. Rich writes contemporary and historical romance and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and The Christian Writers Guild. After she completed the What’s Your Story Course through CWG, she began to write Christian Romance. A stickler for historical facts, her successful genealogy research led to her membership in the Mayflower Society.
After being awarded a contract at the Indianapolis ACFW conference, her debut novel, Tropical Island Vows, was released in August 2011 through Heartsong Presents Book Club. Donna and her husband live in Indiana and adore their beautiful blended family of six married children, soon-to-be seventeen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Dickens’s characters are strong enough to keep them separate and recognizable in a cast of hundreds perhaps. The creative force behind bringing Bleak House to television trimmed its list down to eighty characters.
May plenty of great characters come your way this new year!