Recently, I ran into a snag with one of the stories I’m writing, and it got me thinking about character identity.
We humans all have ideas about who we are. I believe most of us have even consciously thought about why we are the way we are. We have stories we tell ourselves and others about ourselves. Tales about where we came from, whom our parents were, what our background is. We also have beliefs about what we do, and what we’re good at, whether we’re actually good at it or not. Thoughts about what is right and what is wrong. These ideas shape who we are and who we want to be. They are part of our identity.
If you’re writing a three dimensional character, or a round character, your character also has a origin story. They’ll have a story or even multiple stories that they tell themselves and the characters around them about who they are and why they are the way they are. The character would have ideas about what they’re good at, who they should be and who they actually want to be.
This means that when developing a character, you’re not only thinking about who they actually are, but also who they believe they are and who they believe they should be. These don’t always overlap, and can create very interesting situations.
In the case of the story I was writing, the character is a competent person coming from a privileged background. But the story the character tells herself, is one of competition and struggle. Of working hard for what she has. Of fighting to be seen as a worthwhile person. And in her own way, she has.
For the writers among you, I’d like to challenge you to think about the question of who your characters believe they are?