“I just listen to my characters and write down what they do and say.”
Nonsense! I used to think when a writer said they just “listened to their characters”, it was some strange hippie stuff. Like they were just trying to say what we wanted to hear, to make them sound mystical. I started writing short stories in 2013, and most of the time it was about a single character with minimal interaction.
In 2015 I took one of the stories and expanded it into a full novel. I added a lot of characters, had a lot of witty banter, and did my best to give each a somewhat unique personality and way of speaking (I’m sure most still sound the same because it’s still coming from my head). By then I had been listening to the audiobook of Stephen King’s “On Writing”, and thought again about how authors just “listened to their characters”. Hooey! Malarkey!
By then I was over halfway through the first draft, and I noticed that even though my story was plotted out (I’m not a pantser, I’m a plotter), things would always change based on a character’s reaction to the situation they were in. Also while writing dialogue, a good deal of what I wrote was all off the cuff, as if the characters were the ones speaking and I was just writing down what they said.
I know it’s due to the tens of thousands of words I wrote before that, shaping their reactions based on how I wanted them to react. But at that moment I really understood what all those hippies, I mean authors, meant. I was doing the same thing, and it made the storytelling that much more exciting. Even with the full story outlined, I still don’t know how the characters will react, and how the events will unfold.
I just listen to my characters and write down what they do and say.