Tuesday, 29 July 2014

CREATING CHARACTERS




Becky Sharp or James Bond? Adrian Mole or Scarlett O’Hara? Whoever you prefer, the main character is the one person readers must be able to engage with, because he/she is who we follow throughout the book, and in whose success we are invested.

Protagonists come in every shape and size. From anthropomorphized creatures as in Wind in the Willows, and cute furry imaginary ones such as The Hobbit, to the brooding Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights and the feisty Jo March in Little Women.

What is it we look for in a character? Do we want our protagonist to be strong and punch through every obstacle despite their internal angst like Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Or do we prefer them to start in a vulnerable position and discover their inner strength as the story progresses, as with Hester Prynne in The Scarlett Letter

The truth is - it doesn’t matter. What is important is for readers to be able to identify with the struggle they see the hero/heroine undergoing, irrespective of whether they’re combating many limbed aliens in another galaxy, or dealing with heatstroke while holidaying on a Greek island. 

So what are the ingredients for creating a great character? To make an impression, characters have to be believable and complicated. In real life we often present different facets of our personalities to people depending on our greater or lesser status in relation to them. Similarly creating characters with layers of complexity makes them more credible. 

If you give your characters what Aristotle called ‘consistent inconsistencies', you add depth: an ambitious politician who can't say no to anything his wife and children demand; a gregarious extrovert who hides an intense fear of new situations; a ruthless spy with a soft spot for budgerigars. When these inner conflicts are hidden from other characters, but unveiled to readers it produces more drama as we see the extent the politician will go to in order to protect his family from threats; the extrovert's fears as, wanting to impress his girlfriend, he takes her to a new holiday destination; how distraught the spy becomes when his birds catch a virus and die.

When we make new friends we learn about their characteristics, history and behaviour in various circumstances over time. In much the same way, writers should introduce these foibles, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies to readers gradually. 

The importance of a protagonist should never be underestimated. Great fictional personalities enter the cultural and individual imaginations. Due the pictorial nature of stories and the emotional attachment we develop as we follow the main character's struggles, their examples enter our subconscious, and have the ability to inspire us. This is no small achievement.

Writing Update:

I admit I feel more nervous than a virgin on her wedding night, but signing a contract strikes me as a bit like an arranged marriage. The bride/writer comes with her dowry/novel and the groom/publishing firm offers established circumstances of support. For the relationship to work, trust has to be established, and compromises reached.  
 
We know life is full of compromises (watch any house buying program) and being flexible offers more chance of success than adopting a rigid stance. I know I need to make a head, not heart, decision, but at the moment I’m engaged in endless debate with myself, asking questions and pondering answers.

After the third edit of my paranormal adventure, I’m resting the story, though like a mother with a baby, it’s never far from my mind. Another title, however, continues to elude me, so I’m giving it time to simmer, mulling it over and circling back now and then. I'm not in anxiety, though. I have faith it will appear at the right moment.

On the other hand, I do have a new title for ‘An Unstill Life’ but letting it sit for a while. Also if I sign the contract, it may not be ‘the title’ but feedback had been very positive about the change.

I’ve learned the lesson of being inactive between edits and I’m keeping busy working on a different project.  Karen Wyld noticed my profile said I write magic realism, and pointed me in the direction of Zoe Brook's Magic Realism Blog Hop! I have a story which has had an outing in another incarnation, but that was before I discovered online editing tools. Currently I’m putting it through the Pro Writing Aid editing mill, and will feature it on the blog hop! 

                                                     

This Week’s Haiku
you are my lover,
but are you my friend? When you
decide let me know

Useful links:
If you’re interested in magic realism, Zoe Brooks has a great site:
If you’re looking for a list of character traits (& much more) this site is worth exploring:
I’d love it if you popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories...just click on the links to the right. 

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku  


Thank you for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment. 
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

About Me

My photo

         
         
Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

Google+ Followers

Followers

Translate

Search This Blog

Like us on Facebook