What is it that attracts us to a character, and is there any one thing which makes a character stand out? It can be a combination of factors, their situation, their flaws, their vulnerabilities or their strengths, all of which resonates within us eliciting a response – even with an unattractive protagonist such as Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell. In so far as we perceive these fictional characters, they are fully developed for the purpose of the story, although they may not have reached maturity such as the boys in Lord of the Flies.
There are many notable characters in fiction from Anna Karenina through to Bilbo Baggins, but what do they have in common which makes them live in our imagination long after we’ve closed the book? One of my personal favourites is Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, because despite her character defects, she’s a survivor fighting against the odds.
So do these characters spring fully formed into their creator’s minds, or do they reveal themselves bit by bit as the story grew? Whichever way they developed, one thing is sure – knowing your character inside and out brings them alive to you, and is part of conveying their truth to readers.
Writer’s sometimes use characters to shed light on certain aspects of life, and can create individuals who are too ambiguous, but the more precise and detailed your character is, the more alive they become to you, making it easier to bring them to life on the page. Another advantage of understanding your character in depth is that it’s simpler to visualize how they act, which reduces the tendency to tell rather than show them in action.
Some writers construct a biography of their main characters to help bring them alive, but working on physical features is another good way to clue in to your character. By this I mean, not just their age, build, colouring and sexuality, but how they feel about themselves. Are they comfortable in their skin? Do they carry any physical scars – if so what is the story behind them? Does your character have physical weaknesses – asthma, allergies, etc., and how does this impact their behaviour? Do they overcompensate and if so how?
There are also psychological facets to take into account such as intellectual ability, disposition (extrovert or introvert), and their goals in life – do they have any, and how successful are they in achieving them? How do they relate to those around them? Friends, family, education, job, hobbies, lifestyle as well as age, gender, nationality are all areas for consideration.
Most of your protagonist’s backstory won't make it on to the page, but it does work towards creating a plausible fictional character; and while we may not all be able to create that outstanding character, we should be able to achieve a believable one.
This Week’s Rant
I'm not going to tell you the story of the unripened green bananas I was unable to buy because they were past their sell-by date, (nor of my latest easy-to-prepare banana, almond milk, blueberry and wheat grass powder breakfast smoothie – taken only after several large cups of coffee), but check the link below if you're interested in some facts about this subject.
Only one chapter left to put through my second Pro Writing Aid edit. (In case you’re thinking only two edits – this is actually more like my twenty second edit as I didn’t discover Pro Writing Aid till late in my editing process.) Then some final additions which require a little research (note to self - no deviating into unrelated areas), and finish reading aloud chapters thirteen to twenty one. Although I may not manage all of this by Christmas Eve, I will by New Year’s Eve.
It’s a scary thought as I turn towards the next step.
I've regained confidence in my story, and trying to control the flights of fancy my active imagination is indulging in as I picture the raptures publishers/agents will fall into when my manuscript arrives! Be real, I tell myself, papering the walls with rejection slips is more like what I’ll be doing. No harm in dreaming though, is there?
delicate rose light
merges into pale blue sky -
crisp winter morning
A short story website where you can submit your work and find readers.
For more food waste facts to think about:
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
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