Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Developing Three Persons in One by Marie Wells Coutu

“There are three people in yourself: who people think you are, who you think you are, and who you really are.” 

This quote is widely attributed on the Internet to William Shakespeare, but I’ve been unable to locate the actual source or anything that definitively proves or disproves its Shakespearean origin. (If you know, I’d love to hear from you.) 

Regardless who said it, hearing the quote recently got me to thinking. Not only is this is a good concept to apply to one’s life, but it also can help in developing fictional characters. 

Let’s look at these three aspects: 

1. Who people think you are. Craft books often discuss ways to portray your heroine by showing what other people think of her or how they react to her. Typically, this refers to her physical appearance, but it can also apply to her personality or moral character. A characteristic could be shown through dialogue: the hero accuses her of being selfish, for example. Or you might write a scene where the heroine isn’t present, with two other characters discussing how courageous she is. Instead of dialogue, another POV character’s thoughts could reveal some aspect of her personality. 

2. Who you think you are. Who the character thinks he is will, of course, be shown through his internal monologue. This could be in reaction to the heroine’s comments, or it could be used to show motivation for his actions. Often, who he thinks he is will be, at least in part, affected by the emotional wound of his past. 

3. Who you really are. The third “person” in this equation provides an opportunity to deepen your character development. The inner core of your character will be demonstrated primarily through action. When faced with a moral dilemma, which may be the basis of your plot, what choice will she make? That choice must be based on who she really is. It must be true to her character as you have developed her through the story, or your readers will not find her decision believable. 

Knowing these three “people” who inhabit your main characters before you begin to write can help you create a story that readers can relate to. 

For our characters (and for ourselves as writers), there’s one more “person” we can add to the list: Who we want to be. 

Who I think I am—and who I really am—is usually not who I want to be. I want to be more loving, more committed, more selfless, etc. My characters will have similar feelings. Those desires become the basis for the goals I set for my characters (and for myself). 

Which of these “persons” are the hardest for you to develop or demonstrate in your characters?
When faced with a moral dilemma, the choice your character makes must be true to her character as you’ve developed her through the story, or your readers will not find her believable. @mwcoutu @MaryAFelkins #writerstips

Marie Wells Coutu finds beauty in surprising places, like old houses, gnarly trees, and forgotten treasures. When she’s not writing about finding restoration and healing through God-designed journeys, she enjoys taking broken things and making them useful. 

She is currently working on historical romance novels set in the 1930s. One manuscript won the 2019 Touched by Love Contest and the 2019 Sheila Contest, and a second novel also won in the Sheila Contest. Her published novels are women’s contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. The Secret Heart, her newest release, and Thirsting for More, the second book in the series, were finalists in several contests. 

You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook author page and her website, www.MarieWellsCoutu.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwcoutu or on Amazon.