This month’s topic is How do you create your characters–their quirks, habits, values, and what part they will play in the story, etc.? Do you have a process or do they come to you instinctively?
Dealing with the widening out questions first – Do you have a process or do they (characters) come to you insitnctively?
I suppose I do, or might, have a process in so far has I need to hear their voices. I often start a story or longer piece in dialogue and the character’s voice has to be clear in my head before I really know who they are.
In the beginning, I was told by my mentor, the late Margaret McKinlay, that all my characters sounded like me. This was backed up by others in the Edinburgh Writers’ Club. There was a huge shift in my writing when I realised that: No, the character would not resolve things the way I would and: Yes, as soon as the character refused to play ball with plot, they were real.
Most writers have been asked whether such and such a character is based on them/a mutual acquaintance/the newsreader and the answer must depress pretensions (or hopes) because ordinary people are too ordinary to make the cut. They need the application of quirks, habits and values and at that stage in their creation I can look to the needs of the plot.
It’s such a relief to get to that point. How does one get there?
Take Rosalie Garden in A Debt for Rosalie. She made her appearance as a young woman struggling with the loss of a promising business and the discovery that her fiancé was likely to blame. Her back story strengthened her resolve to not accept the solution offered by another man. Her emotional recovery allowed her to take the help the new man offered on terms that were good for them both.
The story opens with Rosalie getting off an ‘ageing man’s bicycle’ and instantly we know she’s a young woman of determination because she’s cycled for hours and miles on it. It becomes clear that she has no loose money – but she did have a bike; and she got on that bike.
I suppose, it’s a free-flow process. What I have to be careful over, is not getting carried away and allowing character to become caricature. Rosalie’s story may be available from a library near you.
Check out the posts from my fellow robins below, from the 27th, to discover how other writers find their characters.
Anne (who, like Melissa, has been dancing quadrilles! Ha!)
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2022/08/27/hatching-people/
Anne Stenhouse https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com
An interesting process, Anne. Rosalie also sounds like a great character.
Hi Rhobin, thanks. and another great topic, too. Yes, I liked Rosalie and, having worked in addictions, I’ve known many people who’ve lost a lot because of their love and trust of an addicted person. This was, in part, their story. anne
I had to chuckle when you mentioned being told all your characters sounded like you – I was on the receiving end of a similar comment ages ago and now I go out of my way to use words or phrases I hear on other peoples’ lips that I’ve never used, or even a foreign word here and there. But the real work lies in understanding the cadence and style of speaking where our characters have grown up.
Hi Skye, Yes, the real work is exactly what you suggest. I do have a good ear and hope I’ve left my self-reflective ways behind. Anne
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Anne, I agree. One of my comments to many beginning editing clients is that all their people sound the same, with different names attached. I personally have never had that problem, because none of my characters are silly enough to sound like me.
Hi Bob, Glad it’s not just me. Writing radio peieces is great for forcing this issue as the listener doesn’t have the help of seeing the names on the page. anne
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While there is some of me in every character I write, including the evil and unlikable ones, I hope I vary them enough so that the readers don’t get bored. And once I’ve written about a character, their subsequent lives is easy to write–that’s why I’ve so often written a series, when I only planned one book! Plus I have to keep those secondary characters “happy,” so they stop yelling at me in my head! LOL.
Hi Fiona, I can understand why a writer would want to calm the noise. anne