Build your perfect CHARACTER
A JOURNEY AND CONFESSIONS OF A FICTION WRITER – PART 4
HOOK them or LOSE them, and I’m not talking a about fishing here, although that is a good segue into the topic.
Let’s say for instance your character is a fisherman or is watching someone fish. Unless you are au fait with the art of fishing, do your research on the subject. Otherwise your readers, if they know something about the subject, will soon pick up on the fact that you as the author know nada about the subject and they will lose confidence in your ability as a writer. On the other hand, if you delve deep enough into the subject, you might discover little nuggets of information that will be informative to your reader and you will have them well and truly hooked—no pun intended.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
A story, any story, is set in a time or place. Again, if you are writing science fiction you will be able to get away with faking it. The time and places are after all in your own imagination.
If however you are writing about a real place, you will need to thoroughly research that area you are writing about. It’s good practice to establish street names and familiar landmarks that your reader can relate to. This gives your story a greater depth and will help your reader visualise the surroundings in which your characters find themselves.
Be very careful when setting your story in the past. Let’s say you are writing a period novel set in 1880 and you describe how your character walks under the giant steel arches of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, you may want to note that the tower was only build in 1887 to 1889. Your reader may even know this fact or happen to stumble across it.
WALK IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS
If you are going to be writing about a city or place it will be helpful to physically go to that place. Walk the area and experience the culture, the vibe on the street, even the smells emanating from the restaurants or street vendors along the way. All of these experiences lend credibility to your story and will help to fuel the imagination.
I’ve personally found Google Maps helpful in some instances when I physically couldn’t see a place for myself. This will also be useful if your character is say driving from point A to B. You should be able to determine how long the journey will take him and also what he might see along the way.
Interviews are another great way to research the subject. People or professionals in their respective fields are generally more than happy to tell you about their occupation and how certain procedures are executed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The people you will be interviewing are real people with feelings and dislikes, just as your characters should have. Very often you may get a glimpse of who the person is outside of the work environment. This will once again help you with building your own characters and their back stories. Just be careful not to infringe on anyone’s privacy.
Your personal digital library that full of information and all at a stroke of a key at your own desk. Everything you need—from the use of chloroform, blood spatter patterns, acid that will dissolve bodies, various blunt-edged weapons and also dozens of synonyms for the word ‘carefully’ if you need it. Be careful though…big brother may be watching.
However, there’s a caveat. Don’t fall into the Wikipedia trap and believe that everything you see online is true. Be more discerning when researching on the net. Check multiple resources for their validity.
Acquaint yourself with your local library.
Most libraries will have an extensive catalogue of all the resources you will need for your research. Not only that, you have the opportunity to borrow as many books as you need and take your time to digest all the information you require.
Writers often make the mistake of bombarding the reader with so much information that they themselves have learnt about the subject matter, that the reader loses the thread of the story. Don’t let the subject matter become the story, unless you are writing in the first person about a character that supposedly knows everything about the subject. But here again be aware of the fact that your average reader may not want to know every small detail about fishing for example and will soon get bored.
Until next time, keep writing, keep researching!