I wondered if there's a bit of you in all the characters... and it's characters where they don't have bits of you that you get stuck with writing them, and how you overcome that?
Yeah, getting stuck. So characters are the hard one for me to talk about because I plan my worlds in great detail before I start writing, in most cases, and I plan my plots in moderate detail. I plot backward, I start with what I want to have happen for a plot cycle; not necessarily the last scene, but, you know, something like this character learns to use the magic, and I've got the scene where it shows that this is working, and then I list a bunch of bullet points underneath. That's my-- And so if you look at my outline, it's like goal, bullet points, goal, bullet points, goal, bullet points-- that's my whole outline.
My characters, I figure out who they are when the book starts, but I do not outline them in great detail. The reason for this is we find that writers tend to fall into two general camps. We have what we call outline writers, and discover writers. Now, discovery writers, George RR Martin calls them gardeners, they like to discover their story as they go. Stephen King says you never start with an ending in mind because otherwise it ruins the book, he just goes and see what happens. They tend to write character really well. In fact if you're reading a good and you go "Wow these characters all feel really vivid and alive", that's probably a discovery writer. If you're-- On the other hand outliners, or architects as George RR Martin calls them, tend to plan everything out ahead of time and because of this they tend to have spectacular plots. If you've got somebody who's got a great plot, it's a page-turner, the great twist at the ending-- that's most likely going to be an architect, but the flaw of this is they tend to have weaker characters; and the flaw over here is they tend to have weaker plots. Terrible endings are a horrible kind of habit of the discovery writer.
Over time I've really tried to kind of mitigate this by letting myself discovery-write my characters to kind of get some more of that living character status, which means I have to have a flowing outline where, once I've started writing my way into the character I will then have to rebuild the outline periodically to match the person they're becoming, which sometimes rips apart that outline quite a bit. The other thing that it requires me to do is I often have to kind of cast characters in a role. Vin is a great example of this, where I actually tried Vin three different times--I posted one of these on my website--with a different personality each time until I got one that would fit the story that I'm telling, and who she was, and I went from there.
And so it's really hard for me to pick out what I do with characters, but if my book is not working it's almost always that a character is not working for me. And this happened with Sazed in book 3 of Mistborn. I wrote this in the annotations, you can go and read it off that. Dalinar, in the original draft of The Way of Kings. When a character is not clicking 100% it is the biggest problem I run into with books, that takes a lot of drafting to figure out what to do. With Dalinar, if you're not familiar with what happened there, is I split him into two people. It always had his son Adolin, but Adolin had not been a viewpoint character, and the problem I was having with Dalinar was that I wanted to present a strong figure for the leader because people though he was going mad, but I also had to have him talk about this madness, and be really worried about it, and so he came on very weak, because everyone thought he was going mad, and he spent all of his time brooding about going mad. When I took the brooding out to his son, and had Dalinar be like "I'm not mad, something's going on, everyone thinks that I'm crazy, but I can deal with this", and had his son go "my dad, who I love, is going crazy", those two characters actually both became more alive, and worked better, than they had with the conflict of "I'm going crazy" being Dalinar's. So, it takes a lot of work to figure these things out sometimes.