Friday, 20 July 2012

Your cast of characters

Try googling ‘Character Development in Writing a Novel’.  More advice than you can throw a stick at.  So don’t expect anything ground breaking from me, just my recent experience.

My first novel is a constant learning process.  During the editing, it became clear that my characters were modeled on people I knew, and whilst in my outline there were physical descriptions along with a few salient points, the ‘core’ or ‘heart’ of the characters was not revealed.  Ray Mooney, Creative Writing teacher, would be delighted with my recognition of this.  He regularly talked about identifying the ‘core’ of the character and then testing that ‘core’ to create drama.

Modeling your characters on people you know might be a fine starting point, but unless you know that person better than they know themselves, you could be limited in your vision.  I needed to understand my characters so that I could flesh them out in the novel.

Then I remembered an exercise suggested by another Creative Writing teacher, Gary Smith.  (Doing some name dropping today).  The class exercise went something like this:

Imagine a significant other (friend, family, whatever) is tied to a chair and gagged.  They can’t speak and they can’t move.  (Sorry – I’m not going anywhere kinky with this - or plagiarising Fifty Shades of Grey.)  And then speak to them about how you feel.  (Of course, write it down.)

So that's my technique.  My villain seemed one dimensional.  His history and role in the plot were clear, but his motivation was not.  So I tied the hero to a chair, gagged him, and had the villain explain his motivations and desires.

Everything became clearer.  I now have a character that might choose to react differently in some of my scenes, perhaps with greater passion, and with greater drama should someone seek to stop him realizing his desires.

I might even get to use that speech as dialogue somewhere.

Ray and Gary both agreed to be referenced in this blog - thank you for the teaching!

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