One subject that keeps coming up in my writing group is how to create convincing characters.
All characters need a context, a goal, a challenge, a history, but do you start with a blank page and watch your characters develop as the narrative progresses, or are you familiar with every aspect of their backstory before you start writing?
Recently I was prompted to revisit the start of my otherwise completed second novel. I am indebted to Cate Hogan http://bit.ly/1QIYuhd for her insights into creating interesting characters, which brought about this reassessment. It made me think that the introductory chapters of the novel should be more dynamic. I was reminded of some writerly advice along the lines of, if the story doesn’t get going until chapter three, that’s where you should start. The week before submission, I decided the beginning of the novel needed a complete overhaul. Continue reading →
I’ve just had my passport photograph updated – who is that woman? She looks like she’s had an interesting life – it’s certainly left its mark. Which ties in nicely with this week’s theme – creating characters.
People-watching can be very fertile ground and there are plenty of opportunities for observing personality traits and characteristics in colleagues, friends and total strangers in the course of your working life and leisure activities.
I’ve been lucky to work in some colourful and exciting environments, full of large than life personalities, who transfer easily onto the page, albeit with a little tweaking. Here are some possibilities for you to consider: Continue reading →
Two dilemmas present themselves as I get close to finishing my new novel. The first one was prompted by a song on the radio that gave me an idea for a lovely little connection between an event and a character. The second one was a great plot twist that came to me in a dream. Really. Continue reading →
I’ve just finished reading Rosamunde Pilcher’s bestselling novel The Shell Seekers and while I would still recommend this beautifully written saga about family relationships I can’t help feeling that the characters display some very old-fashioned ideas, as if they inhabit a different era to the one portrayed. And here’s why: Continue reading →
Are you a carry-on-to-the-bitter-end reader, or a mid-chapter abandoner? I used to read every book I started from cover to cover, regardless of whether or not I was enjoying it, because I reckoned that I owed it to the author to finish what they’d written before I rushed to judgement. Not anymore. Continue reading →
We’ve been doing a lot of work on what makes a satisfying short story at the writing group, and here’s an easily digested summary of what we’ve discussed.
A memorable short story will say something about the human condition, encapsulating one idea succinctly, with each scene building towards a crisis point, followed by a point of realisation or moment of clarity. The issue you address at the start of the story should be the issue that is resolved at the end.
A good short story starts in the middle of the action and as close to the climax as possible. At the end of the story, the main character should be in a better place than at the beginning, enabling them to move forward.
Following on from last week’s post about alienating readers with difficult words, I had an interesting discussion with a member of my writing group about the referencing of popular culture in my WiP and pieces from other group members, and how this can have a similar effect to using unfamiliar words . Given that pop culture permeates our everyday lives at all levels of society, should we ignore it, or embrace it? Continue reading →
We’ve had some good sessions discussing plot in the writing group lately, which is useful as I’m midway through the first draft of my next novel. The outline, plot and its overarching narrative has been established, but the story needs a subplot or two to allow me to explore the characters’ personalities more deeply and examine their motivations. I also need to be clear on the story. A plot doesn’t make a story but for there to be a story, something’s got to happen. I was all set to share some thoughts last week. Then life got in the way.
It was my turn to take our writing group last week and as my theme I chose a topic I’ve written about in the past – Characterisation.
As well as what the story is about, readers are interested in who it’s about. They want a protagonist they can empathise and identify with throughout the story, but these characters won’t necessarily be nice people; some memorable characters from literature have been downright horrible – think Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights, Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharp, Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock. Whether likeable or thoroughly villainous, we need to believe that the characters we create are real, breathing people or our readers won’t believe in them either.