The breath of life

138556126006025712_zcf6FiFK_cSo a few people have asked me recently how they can make their characters ‘come alive.’ They say their characters are flat and two-dimensional, that they can’t seem to make them do what they’re supposed to.

Well, there’s your problem. You can’t make your characters do what you want them to. I think too often writers look at their characters the way a tyrant or a despot looks at those under his rule, whether they mean to or not. They think a character is completely theirs, an automaton that does whatever they tell it to.

This is completely wrong. Tolkien once said that we, as the created, have the right to create ourselves, and he was right. God gave us the ability to create, but so often we mess up. We aren’t supposed to be tyrannical writers, forcing our characters into molds they don’t fit. As the creators of our characters, we’re supposed to bring them to life as God brought us to life. In Eden, God created Adam, and then He breathed his life into him, and then He spent time with him. He didn’t create Adam as a robot – He gave him a soul, a personality, a will of his own.

The same goes for characters. You can create them, breathe life into them – and you can either rule them with an iron fist, or you can guide them and watch them and write their story, and let them act as if they have some semblance of their own will. Of course they’re figments of our imagination, but God wouldn’t have given us imagination for no reason. He delights when we create things, and though we do it so clumsily, one day, maybe we’ll get it right.

You are the author of their story, just as God is the Author of yours. In order for your characters to ‘come to life,’ you have to act as though they have lives of their own. Once you realize this, all you have to do is breathe life into them, set them on their feet, and watch them go.


/Are you all tired of me posting things about the Paper books yet?/


16 thoughts on “The breath of life

  1. You always manage to hit the nail on the head! ❤ I think that developing characters also comes with time… Like, you're not a perfect writer when you first start writing. So, charries will develop with time, I guess. 🙂 Did that make sense?

    (Answer: I don't have time to read too much of the snippets, so I just scan them, lol! But no, if you love it, POST AWAY! Also, I want to see you try your hand at origami!!! :P)

  2. From what I’ve learned, you don’t “create” a character. The character “is.” I should write my own post about this. Cursed work schedule!

    And to answer your question, yes because I’d rather read the actual story than get too many out of context snippets. To be blunt, gets kind of old after a while. To me anyway. (And I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at me because I just always have to be different, don’t I? *grin*)

    • Well, the thing is, most people won’t be able to read the full thing until it’s published, so snippets is what’s available. YOU, on the other hand, are a beta-reader, so you’ll get it earlier.

  3. Ah, very true Mirriam! I began to understand this a while ago, but whenever asked the same question you addressed in the post, I was never able to put it so well as you have. Kudos to you! 🙂

    Do you know the exact quote you referenced? I would love to add it to my Pinterest lexicon. 😉

  4. Yes! I agree entirely. For me, the characters are always what comes first, anyway, and then a story just naturally shapes around them. Lately, I’ve been challenged to truly delve into my characters’ personalities – to understand them, and embrace their individuality. I used to always write characters who were like me…but different. Now, I’ve begun to flip that around and write characters who are completely different from me…but with surprising little quirks, habits, and personality traits that remind me of myself. ‘Tis much better (and also harder) that way.

    Excellent post!

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