Becoming Your Main Characters When Writing

14 Jan

003I don’t even know what day I’m posting this so I’ll just say howdy!

An interesting thing happened while I was working on my latest novel.  By the way, I officially hit the ¾ mark on the novel…but back to my point.  While I was writing I noticed that my writing voice in other writing ventures was changing. I was beginning to sound more like my main character Toby King….or he was beginning to sound more like me. I’m not sure which it is.

I write in first person.  I do that for several reasons, but the main reason is because first person allows me to dig deeper into the thoughts of my characters….I become them, so that as the novel continues they end up writing it based on our shared thoughts.  Does that make sense to you?

I have to feel what my characters feel or it isn’t real to me.  I have to think like they think or I can’t make it believable.  I have to see what they see and react the way I know they will react….Toby and I have become one during this process.  I understand him very well because so much of him…is me.

Let’s go to the quote of the day and then I have more to add.


The struggle of my life created empathy – I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me.
Oprah Winfrey

To continue, I feel empathy for my characters because they are real to me and I understand what they have gone through.  That is a remarkable feeling and I hope each of you experiences it at some point.

I have had people tell me that they could never write revealing exposes about themselves the way I have, and I find that a bit sad.  Writing is an intimate conversation between writer and reader.  It is exposing our humanity and risking the consequences.  I can’t imagine writing any other way.


street fair Aug 2012 048

Empathy…..use it and tell me what one of the people in this photo is feeling based on their facial expression.


The Phoebe Winter Writing Contest is taking submissions now for fictional writing 7,000 words or less. Deadline is February 1st and the cost if $17 per entry. You can read about it here.


The Writer’s Digest Self-Published Books Contest is accepting submissions; early bird deadline is April 1st. For details click here.


If you don’t know my friend Mary (tillsontitan on HP) then now is a good chance to meet her. She does a great series on the history of the Academy Awards and you can find her latest in that series here.


My good buddy Mark Bruno has a blog called The Clean Life. If you want an uplifting message of hope then check him out here.


I had an epiphany the other day and it made me laugh.  I was bemoaning the fact that a lot of writers don’t share works of fellow writers, and a lot of writers don’t bother to comment on articles written by their peers. I see so many on HubPages who just post their articles and then disappear into the woodwork….and I was feeling very negative towards those people until the epiphany came….they simply don’t care to be a member of a community.  All they are concerned about is getting their work online and offering it up to the google gods….and you know what?  That’s fine!  Writing is not a one size fits all occupation, and what works for one may not work for me, and the opposite is true as well.  I happen to love the community of writers that I belong to…and so I think I’ll stick with it.


I read somewhere last week that when writing dialogue in a short story or novel one shouldn’t use contractions, that it isn’t proper English.

B.S. is my response to that.  First of all, contractions are part of the English language; I know that because there is a name for them. LOL  Secondly, characters must sound like real people in a novel or story, and real people talk with contractions.   For goodness sake, use contractions if you want to.


A little longer than normal but I short-changed you last week so this makes up for it. Have a great day of writing my friends.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


20 Responses to “Becoming Your Main Characters When Writing”

  1. Janine Huldie January 14, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I love that you write in first person, Bill and totally connects you to your characters that much more for sure. And since I know what day I am writing this comment, Happy Tuesday!! 🙂

    • Billybuc January 14, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

      LOL..Happy Tuesday Janine and thank you for the kind words.

  2. Shauna L Bowling January 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Bill, I agree with you regarding contractions. People – real people – use them all the time. If we want our readers to engage in the stories and relate to our characters, they have to speak as if they are having a conversation with the reader (or at least being overheard). There’s nothing more stilted than reading something that is written in proper English. Sheesh! Who picks up a text book when they want to read for pleasure?

    On another note – and this has nothing to do with your post – how long is your hair now? You should post a recent pic of your hippie-gone-writer-gone-hippie self on FB. 🙂

    P.S. I agree with you about writer’ communities. Sharing, caring and supporting benefits us all.

    • Billybuc January 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      Sha, my hair is down to my collar now and completely over my ears. Looking good! LOL I don’t know how long I’ll grow up but I’m beginning to like it now that it is past the awkward stage.

      Thanks my friend and I don’t think I ever picked up a text book and read for pleasure. 🙂

      • Shauna L Bowling January 14, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

        Post it to FB. I’d love to see your Maynard look! 🙂 Frankly, I’ve always liked men with long hair.

      • Billybuc January 14, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

        I’m going to let it get longer before I start snapping pictures, but I promise I will when the time comes. 🙂

  3. 1authorcygnetbrown January 14, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    I’m like you in a lot of ways although, I can step into my characters’ skins just long enough for them to do what they do. I don’t write in first person either, but write in the present tense during the first draft. As you said, its all okay! We each have our own style and that is as it should be!

    • Billybuc January 14, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      We do indeed, Donna! I am constantly experimenting to see what feels right to me, because the bottom line is if it does not feel good to me then it won’t to my readers either.

      Thank you for the visit on this sunny January morning.

  4. erinshelby January 14, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    No contractions? Seriously? I can’t imagine eliminating contractions completely unless I was going back into centuries past and trying to depict a time when contractions weren’t used by everyone. Was there an explanation for that idea other than “it’s not proper”?

    • Billybuc January 14, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

      Hi Erin! Good to see you here. No, no explanation other than it isn’t “proper” English. Whatever the heck proper English is. I saw it used once in the Longmire novels; one of the characters didn’t use contractions when he spoke, and it was actually quite effective and distinctive because of its oddity.

  5. ruchira January 14, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    I agree Bill gotta get into the skin of your characters to really get a feel of their emotions cause that helps to write with ease.

    I agree I have not been on HP lately and have even not commented much…apologizes!!

    • Billybuc January 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

      No apologies necessary, Ruchira. I understand all about being busy and having other obligations. Thank you for taking the time to stop by here.

  6. Clear-eyed Sky January 14, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    Who knew that contractions ain’t proper English?

    • Billybuc January 14, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

      No me, Lizzy! Shows how clueless I am. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Dynamo.

  7. Audrey Howitt January 15, 2014 at 1:34 am #

    I love it when the character invades my voice! I also love it when my characters do unexpected things–what I am not fond of is when a darker character starts to invade my thoughts and feelings–I find it interesting that there are darker parts of me that speak through those characters—Happy Tuesday!

    • Billybuc January 15, 2014 at 3:02 am #

      Audrey, it is a fascinating process for sure. I have a novel-in-waiting with a dark character and I’ll be interested in seeing what my reaction is to him.

  8. authorklsilver January 15, 2014 at 4:56 am #

    Hi, Bill! You developed a character and gave him a name, but – he is SOOO much of YOU! It reminds me of actors who get into their role and don’t come out of it until the filming is done! It seems easier for you as your character is already a part of you. Congratulations on being halfway through your book!
    As far as i can tell – that little boy has lost his puppy. Daddy is comforting him while mommy is on high alert…
    Personally – i feel good when i share other’s work. On my fb wall it”s a TON of other people’s work! If one succeeds we all succeed. United we stand!
    Interestingly, my blog today was on much the same topic. It was titled ” Is it my breath – or my genre?”

    • Billybuc January 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      I love it Sis! I agree with you about supporting others…there is no competition as far as I’m concerned….and my character….about 75% of him is me. He’s an interesting guy. LOL


  9. froggy213 January 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    Great post today Bill. I feel myself becoming the characters I dreamt up also.

    On the second half of this post, I am sometimes guilty of not commenting. I find myself so caught up in so many different things, it is hard to manage. I think many others may be in the same situation. Just an example, I had to reload my whole operating system this morning, and I have a freelance job I am behind on, but after reading this excellent post, I had to comment.

    God bless Bill

    • Billybuc January 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      Thanks Greg and I appreciate it. I know all about being busy and getting behind…I believe I missed one of your posts the other day…there is only so much we can do and I think we all understand that. Thanks buddy and good luck catching up.

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