Posts Tagged ‘character development’

Sorry I have been a little overwhelmed with the whole getting published thingamebob but now I am back to being just whelmed in a regular way – adjusting to life and a new career as a writer.

 

Just write!

I hear so many people tell me they want to write a book one day. Its ALMOST  getting on my nerves how many times I hear it. Either they don’t have the time or they aren’t emotionally or mentally in the right place to write. Here’s the secret to writing a book – you just kind of have to sit down and write it. Then you rewrite it, then you edit it and just keep going until its something you’re vaguely happy with (or you go crazy).

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Be open to change!

Without going into the specifics here, I kind of had a plot mapped out for the next book I wanted to write, I had gathered information, made some vague outlines. Then I watched a TV show and the plot was too similar to what I had planned and so I decided to scrap it (for now). That wasn’t annoying at all!!!!!

If you find yourself in a similar situation dont get dishearted – every story has been told before – you can either tell it from a different perspective or find a new angle – no one can write your story but YOU

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Don’t be afraid of research.

Watch, read, consume ideas, read news etc – its not time wasting, its research and its important – just know when to draw the line and when you are just stalling yourself.

So I’ve had a week to mull it over and have managed on the fly to come up with something else. I have spent that week watching documentaries, reading blogs, asking questions on forums, reading articles and news reports, watching dramas, anything and everything to try and trigger some kind of story in my mind from the initial concept idea.

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Adapt!

Your original idea may evolve and change – adapt to it and don’t see it as some kind of failure. Sometimes its the challenges and overcoming them that make writing fun!

So I had already kind of figured out a main character for the story I originally wanted to write. I managed to mostly transfer him over because all I had was a plan and a character bio. I had to tweek it slightly but it felt easier than starting completely from scratch – even though essentially its a completely different character.

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Outlining?

I really wanted a complete outline before I started – but as with everything I do – I got so into the characters and the story that i wanted to tell that I am FAR too excited to just sit on this and wait for the rest of the plot to come to me. I have a 30% idea and that’s enough for me for now. I think I probably end up planning the story in 4 or 5 stages.

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Just start!

I’ve written fifteen thousand words. that means I have roughly eighty five thousand to go (give or take!) All of that excitement I was talking about before? its been replaced with a crushing and daunting feeling mixed with the excitement of finding my characters and finding out what’s going to happen to them.

Personally I try and work on one project at a time, because I think its good to be immersed in your story.

Do it now!

The truth is there is no good time to start writing – you just have to get on with it – its all a learning process. I am still learning now!

 

 

I always used to think writing from  first person Point of view was cheating, because its easy, you just put yourself in a persons position and then you let rip on your thoughts. Now I dont feel that way at all. As long as use the first person POV correctly its actually a very powerful tool.

There arent many books that I have read from a first person POV that have really felt that authentic, because there is a tendency for your character in your POV to know everything, but the truth is you only know your own perspective, and unless you impart the individuality of the character in that perspective then there is very little to be gained from writing in that way.

Probably the most famous first person POV book is Catcher in the Rye, and you are sucked into holden caulfields perspective of the world, and his perspective alone. Its probably been twenty years since i read that book and yet If faced with a small excerpt from it, I would recognise it immediately, Because the voice is so brilliantly distinctive.

Another book that stuck with me was John Fowles The Collector – such a dark book, again, I havent read it for a very long time, and I probably should read it again because I think i was about 14 when i read it and it kind of blew my mind a little. Its such a dark book. What struck me about the main character was that there was something wrong with him, his perspective was all wrong, he had a bitter view of the world and of the people in it, he saw himself as an outsider (although I think we all do) and it really struck me as imparting some of the things you think but you never say out loud. Thats where I think the first person POV is so useful, because you can create a language that creates the individual, unlike with dialogue.

A clockwork orange exemplifies this perfectly, the language is so alien and yet it doesn’t take long for the audience to understand it. It creates a feeling for the man ALEX and helps us to understand how he doesn’t play by the rules, not even the rules of language. Another book where the first person POV is used so well, to create the world inside the characters mind.

It took me a long time to make the transition from writing in first person to writing in third person with one persons perspective at the forefront, its an important skill to have – being an outsider looking in, but only having the inside of one characters thoughts to draw on. I never really understood why it was important not to change between perspectives in a chapter until I heard other people doing it – its very confusing and it pulls you out of the story if you have to keep adjusting the person you empathise most with in each “scene”. There are many older books that have an all encompassing view where you can see what everyone is thinking and feeling, but that actually requires an awful lot of skill to pull off and i wouldnt recommend it. Its pretty rare too.

I have recently read the outlander series, which i have mentioned before. The first book is exclusively written from the main characters POV – but this changes in later books and i feel that was because it became hard to explain how she knew things, and also her POV made her a little dislikeable to me, because she was a real know it all. I didnt feel like the first person POV was used in the way that I described in the other stories, i didnt feel like I was in a world inside her head, I felt like she was constantly relaying things to me that she probably wouldnt have known. This also involves her “husband” Jamie giving her a detailed account of the rape he encountered at the hands of Captain Black jack Randall – just so that she could relay the information to us, because otherwise there was no way for her to know. It just involved a little too many people trusting her. Dont get me wrong, i loved the book, I read the first 5 books in about 4 weeks, but i noticed a change in the writing style as the books went on. The only first person POV we get is from the original main character, but we get a few other third person POV’s including jamie her daughter and some bloke called Roger. This lead to a much richer and believable experience as a reader as we got to see things through other characters eyes. Although quite a few of them seemed to be obsessed with breast feeding fully grown men and this seemed to be an oversight to me, as though it could have been restricted to one or two characters as opposed to all of them. maybe thats just me though.

In my new book I have one character thread which is told from a first person POV and i have to say it was so hard to write. Where i used to find it so easy to do that, now I had trained myself to write the other way. What got me most was trying to create a person from the inside, not the outside view, because our opinion of ourselves is rarely the way others see us. For instance people are often telling me how laid back I am – this could not be further from the truth HA! So trying to impart how someone else sees you but also be in your own head, is pretty tricky stuff. Also being honest with the first things that come to mind, because you are no holds barred inside someones head, and thoughts come before they get filtered for public consumption, so dont be afraid of the horrible thoughts put them in the story and then you can edit them at a later time if you think they are too much.

I think this is the most important part of a story, because without a believable character then nothing else will hold together.

One of my favourite characters ever doesn’t even have a name, because she doesn’t need one. In Daphne Du Mauriers book Rebecca, the female leads name is never revealed to us. We come to know her as the second Mrs De Winter – but nothing more than that. Thats because her character is dependent on her being overshadowed by Maximillian De winters first wife Rebecca, the story depends on us never really knowing her by her name, but by her character and her paranoia surrounding the dead wife of her bitter husband. Such clever writing, its a book I have read a hundred times and yet I only noticed that a little while ago and yet its intrinsic to the story.

You can do all kinds of things when you are trying to create a believable character, you can make list after list, you can write yourself a template questionnaire which you answer for every character you make. Its important to know your character though. I’ve been known to catfish to develop a character, so I will make an online profile for my character and then join social media platforms and interact with other people, funnily enough you get to know your character more when other people are asking you questions, because they are things you wouldn’t necessarily think of when looking at the character development yourself. This may seem unethical and it probably is but it has worked for me in the past, of course you have to be a very good storyteller and a very quick thinker.

Another thing I do is get photos of celebrities, because sometimes you have so many characters that its hard to hold them in your head. I put their picture on the wall with a note-card and a small bio, what their motivations are and what they are looking to achieve by the end of the story. By midway through a story I have plenty of images to keep my head together and focus on who is who. Nailing your characters appearance is a huge part of moving forward – even if its just for yourself, having a vision of an actual person in your head definitely makes a difference – at least it does for me.

How does your character interact with others, are they friendly, obtuse, slutty, defensive? how? – learning that is another huge stepping stone.

Motivation – what does your character want? Everyone wants something – I want something, I don’t just drift through life as a bit part to someone elses story – even your smaller characters have motivations, hopes desires and dreams – obviously if your character only has a small part to play you may not want to spend too long thinking about it, but think about it nonetheless.

Flaws – perfect characters are kind of boring, so are characters that get everything they want all the time, or lucky people, they are kind of boring too. We want to see our heroes work for it, we want them to struggle and bleed for their redemption. Make your characters flawed, Everyone has flaws – I know I do. Just like everyone encounters obstacles in life, its hard to like people who don’t, its hard to relate to people who don’t. We need to see our characters learn and grow. We need to be able to relate to them.

Dialogue is a topic unto itself but for the most part people speak differently, its a good way to distinguish characters from each other, some may talk a lot, some may be constantly sarcastic or mean, some may even be highly political or militant. There are so many ways to define character with dialogue, its just another tool in your arsenal, dont just rely on wordy descriptions of your character, SHOW the audience who they are by what they say and do.

Most of all its important to give your characters dimension, go people watching, make up stories for people you see in the street, sit in a cafe somewhere and observe what others do, the differences in the way they speak. Watch people. Think about your favourite characters in books or films and what it was that made them great – see if you can recreate that for your audience.

Until Next time