Writing my first novel was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. When I managed to do it, I was exhausted and frustrated. And I immediately wanted to do it again.
The process of writing and the ways that it’s different for every person that writes is fascinating to me. I wanted to spend my time today talking about the aspect of writing that is the cornerstone of storytelling for me.
To me, the most important part of a book is the character. The best plot in the world doesn’t matter if I don’t feel some kind of connection to the characters. This is one of the challenges that I think about the most as a writer—how do I get the reader invested in my characters?
Part of the struggle is tying together the character and the world they live in.
There are a lot of great character templates out there—sheets with questions about characters’ physical traits and psychological hang ups; hopes, fears, favorites, habits, interests. These are all useful things to know about your characters. If you want to know the details of your characters’ lives on an individual level, these are a great place to start.
But the problem is, we as people aren’t just the products of our own psychology. We’re shaped by the world we live in. Our hopes, fears, dreams, hobbies, interests are all shaped by our context.
Weaving the influences of a society into a character’s personality is difficult enough when you’re writing a character that lives in your own world.
Evin takes place over several different worlds with different sets of values and mores—different rules that guide behavior.
My main character, Eva comes from our world. Her behavior is the easiest for me to explain. Her anxieties are tied to the reality that I live in. She worries about making a good impression on people, living up to her parents’ expectations, keeping her friends safe and happy. These things are all wrapped up in how our world works. She worries about making good impressions because her livelihood will frequently depend on her ability to do so. She wants to live up to her father’s expectations because she grew up in a society where parental expectations shape her own ideas for whom and what she should be. She worries about her friends because she needs other people.
This last one is my common thread. There are some (substantial) differences between the world Eva comes from and the other worlds in the story, but the idea that our relationships with other people make us stronger is the one that ties all the different worlds together—there have to be some universals, after all.
Eva doesn’t go on her journey alone. She’s got a special connection to another place—a place she has to save. She’s not the only one with this connection: there are two others in two different worlds that are meant to help her. These two characters have their own behaviors and dreams that are shaped by their own worlds.
Aditsan, for instance, grows up in a world with tightly-knit communities. He takes a great deal of responsibility for the well-being of the people around him, because that’s what young men in his community do. This pressure gives him an “old beyond his years” feel. Nature is central in his home community, and is an important aspect in his daily life—which means he’s well-equipped for traveling through the wilderness. His society is also one of the few that keeps the myths and legends alive. He knows more about the legends of the Forest of Evin better than any of the others.
Meskenhet on the other hand, is a royal in a society dominated by reason and technology. Her mind works a little differently than the others: she thinks more in terms of strategy than relying on her impulses. Stoicism has more value in her society, so she’s less prone to emotional outbursts than the other characters. Her world is also more militaristic—which means she’s the one with the weapons training; she’s the best fighter of the bunch. But her connection to the forest is the weakest, and she’s not as skilled with creating and maintaining emotional connections.
It’s an interesting little feedback loop. The story shapes the world shapes the characters shape the story. It all weaves together to create an experience.
At least, that’s what it did for me when I was writing it. Hopefully, that’s what you get when you read it.
About the Author
S. Crowder has been writing stories ever since she first learned how to write. She’s got about a million stories left to tell; hopefully she’ll finish one or two of them. In school, she got in trouble for writing stories during class. Now, she gets in trouble for writing stories when she’s supposed to be doing Adult Things—like cleaning the house or going to the store. When she’s not writing, she teaches sociology at local colleges and universities, trying to get her students to see how the ways that we build society shape the courses people’s lives can take. A.S. Crowder lives in the Deep South with her husband, her cats, and her dog. She probably watches too much T.V.
Her first novel, Evin is available now from Foundations, LLC, and her single-shot story, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” is available from Pro Se Press. Check www.authorascrowder.com for updates on her projects.