Friday, 3 April 2015

C for Character


How can I talk about a novel and not mention this very important aspect?

As I will be interviewing all the main characters a little later this month, I thought I would talk about a few of the minor ones and my approach to developing and creating them.

As a writer I tend not to give too full a physical description of my characters. My reason for this is that it allows the reader to take a more active part in the narrative.

I applied this less is more approach to main characters but filled in a few more gaps with minor roles to help develop certain scenes, settings and imagery. Being more descriptive about minor character Mr Chamberlain’s appearance, for example, his movements and even his breath, helped me add atmosphere to the scenes in which Rayna encounters him. Similarly, in order to change mood, a detailed portrait of an exaggerated, almost Dickensian character in the form of Mrs Chester proved necessary.

For character development I made use of dialogue. What a person says and how they react with other characters can tell a reader a lot about someone. I also had other characters describe each other in terms of the physical as well as attributes like habits, profession and so on.

For many of my cast, photographs of people I found on line helped me bring them to life. I worked with a collage of 'When Skies Are Grey People' above my desk. The pictures helped me imagine how they would move, their ticks and expressions and their reaction to certain situations.

Importantly in character development is forming an understanding of how scenes might impact them and even change them in some way.

All of my characters, big or small lived with me for the entire time of writing the manuscript and they dictated what they wanted to do or say. They altered scenes I'd planned in advance because they developed a life of their own - all I had to do was write. Sounds weird but I know a lot of writers experience their characters in that way.

There have been times when a random character turned up in my head before I had a story to put them in - has that ever happened to you?

6 comments:

  1. I've never had a character just show up, but I've had lines of dialogue appear in my head with no idea who's saying them :). I'm like you when it comes to characters, I don't usually go into too much detail about how they look unless I need it for the plot.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one. Thanks for dropping by, Tasha!

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  2. I can visualize a major character. For example, a story occurs to me involving someone who is in a situation. I have an idea of that character. Others arise out of the flow of the story - and, true to human nature (even for characters) one or another of them has stridden into a story and taken it over. Thank you for a very thought-provoking post!

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    1. Very welcome. We both go about character development in similar ways, Diana.

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  3. I had one character that wanted to leave (she was flat, lying on the page, doing nothing:) So I let her go. I LOVE creating characters whether they're MCs or secondary ones. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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    1. Always good to let the ones that aren't doing anything for your story go.

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