Thursday 23 April 2015

Pursued by characters

I read a blog post recently about how characters can come alive and take on a life of their own. They do not follow the paths that we have neatly devised for them. They make up their own minds.

A life beyond the story

Our characters are with us only for a limited time. They have a life before they joined our story and they will continue to live after we’ve finished telling it – unless we’ve killed them off! They have an off-stage life. This is true whether we’re writing a novel, a short story or a piece of flash fiction. We need to take as much care as with them regardless of how long they stay with us.

Rounded and believable

No good character is without his / her faults. No bad person lacks every saving grace. What made the witches in Macbeth so evil? One artistic director I once worked with suggested that they may have been trawling through the names of Great War victims day in day out. There is always cause and effect within our characters.

When we fall out with them

We need to get them back on track. Maybe write about them with your non-dominant hand.  Or light a candle for them.  Talk to their angel. Go away and spend a week with them in an isolated cottage. You have to like them – at least a little bit.  

Ganging up on you

Yes, they’ve done that with me. Once a bunch of them sat on the back seat of the car and went all the way from Southampton to Basingstoke. They squabbled the whole way and grumbled to me that I wasn’t letting them do what I know they really wanted to.

Making them real

We must know them – physically, intellectually, and emotionally.  We know what makes them happy and what makes them afraid.  Very importantly we must know what is the motivation they have in this story. It most likely comes from their clash with another character. That character we must also know well.
And so it goes.    

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