Making people up.
Every novelist and screenwriter does it.
And the characters in some books/shows are fascinating or lovable, while others come across as flat and unrealistic, mere stereotypes. Caricatures without character. I often feel inadequate to the task; who am I that I have the audacity to create characters, characters I hope readers will identify with and feel compassion, empathy, and affection for? Not easy.
I read somewhere that the author puts a part of himself into each main character.
I’ve found this to be true. And I think it’s crucial to giving a character a beating heart and blood in the veins; authenticity. But when I feel inadequate it’s because I wonder, are these people really believable? I pour myself into them. I put myself squarely in their shoes, I view the world through the screen of their past experience, their beliefs, values, opinions. I let them speak their mind.
I don’t do this for the mere sake of entertaining readers.
It’s my way of “[becoming] all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).”
Jesus surrounded himself with rejects. Tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor and destitute, cripples, prodigals. Where the world had written off “the least of these,” Jesus embraced them. He saw through their tough outer veneers; saw beyond their sin soaked hands. He saw their hearts. No, I don’t mean the obvious heart, the wicked heart that we each have; but that deep down heart where the spirit resides. The suffocating creature who just may open up to the Gospel if once given the chance to receive it.
He died for them.
A “monster” character is not meant to shock readers but to challenge their preconceptions. My motive is to promote compassion and understanding. To help others dig beneath the surface alongside me. It is just as much a journey for me, the writer, as it is for the reader. See, the most fascinating thing about monsters is their incredible capacity to love once redeemed.
“Two people owed money to a certain money lender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:41-43)
Who are some of your all-time favorite, larger-than-life characters? What was it about them in particular that brought them to life and made them seem like real people? 🙂