A JOURNEY AND CONFESSIONS OF A FICTION WRITER – PART 3
Build your perfect CHARACTER
Let’s start with the NAME. When we are born, the first thing our parents do is give us a name. So too with the characters in your story, the protagonist and antagonist and even secondary personas.
The secret here is once again to keep it simple. Your main characters or protagonists should have easy names to remember and in keeping with the era in which your story is set.
For instance, in the early 1800’s you had common names like Edward, Henry or Elizabeth. It would be uncommon to have had a name like Jayden or Makayla. No offence to the Jayden’s and Makayla’s out there.
If you’re really stuck for a name, there are some websites that may help inspire you, such as https://www.name-generator.org.uk/character/
If your preferred genre is Science Fiction, you may want to make up a name that is in keeping with the world or time your characters are living in. Be careful however to avoid names that are difficult to pronounce, thus causing your reader to stumble over them.
Let your reader SEE your character. Describe him or her by giving them a height, complexion, colour of hair etc. Do they have tattoos or piercings for instance? How do they move? The more information you give your readers, the more they will be able to associate with your characters and either hate or love them.
I’m a Panster, as described in my previous blog, and unlike a Plotter who may develop their characters, complete with backstories before they put pen to paper, my characters pop up unexpectedly and develop right there in front of me in the same way my readers may get to know them.
SHOW DON’T TELL
This is a phrase that you will often hear when it comes to the art of writing.
It’s when you as an author provide just enough colour and texture to a scene or character to allow the reader’s own imagination to take over.
For example, if I were to describe a character to you, let’s say;
A large man comes lumbering down the length of the room, looking every bit like a bouncer. Silver-grey hair shaved short against his skull and parted above his left ear by a livid sickle shaped scar. A tattoo of a Maltese cross adorns his neck.
Each and every one of you will visualise a different man and draw from your own experience or imagination, right down to his height, build, and what the scar looks like. Even the size and colour of the tattoo on his neck.
BECOME YOUR CHARACTER
Get inside your character’s head. Feel his or her emotions and what they desire or dislike.
When writing in the first person, you are the protagonist and you live in the here and now, so your readers need to experience what you as the writer experiences as it happens.
If, however you are writing in the third person as I do, you need to take on multiple personalities. Understandably there will always be a faint trace of your own personality in each character you build, but you really need to push the boundaries. Flicking back and forth between these personas can be difficult at times, but you will get better at it as time goes on.
LIFE IS COMPLEX AND SO ARE YOUR CHARACTERS
To make your characters believable you need to see them as real living people, with all their fears and hang-ups. Let’s say for instance your character is a fireman. He goes out and fights fire and saves lives. He’s a hero to everyone and even appears on the annual Fireman’s calendar. But back home he may have a wife or child who is seriously ill, or he may have some other internal conflict going on. Make them human.
Be careful however not to make their back-stories to complicated or it will distract your reader.
THE OTHER GUY OR GIRL
Your secondary characters are just as important to the complexity of your story as your main characters are. They not only help to humanise your protagonist or antagonist, but they give your story depth. In the real world, we are surrounded by co-worker, children and parents. The same goes for your characters.
Something to consider as well if you are going to write a sequel or two about one particular character you have developed, you may want to develop these secondary characters slowly, so that your reader gets to know them as well and feel like being part their lives.
FALLING IN LOVE
By the time you have finished writing your manuscript, you will have developed an intimate relationship with your characters, and so too should your readers. They must become so involved with your characters that they don’t want the story to end. When the protagonist trumps the bad guy, they will want to cheer, or even cry when something bad happens to one of the characters they have fallen in love with.
We’ll be discussing the importance of RESEARCH next time, but for now, keep on writing…