Characterisation is a vital part to process, as you know as a writer, and one of the things that’s really important to make that VITAL connection to your reader. It all ties into voice, so we see, think, hear and root for the character.
Indeed, I have talked about characterisation here many times in one guise or another.
I challenged myself writing an African-American with Lydia and have been overwhelmed with how much people have loved her. In fact they say they like all the characters in While No One Was Watching and yes they are all likeable because I tried to keep them real, while at the same time not stereotypes — which can be hard. Some might think they are stereotypical. The test is the number of people who want to know what happened to them once the book was over and so far that seems to be what people are saying. And I do hope to use Lydia again 🙂
It’s more of a struggle writing the more flawed character and I have always been aware that Amy in I Am Wolf is both complex and flawed and there are aspects of her the reader might not like. How she treats Mark for a start but I have worked to make the reader see why and warm to her, I hope — and that has been tricky. She has, as they say, a lot of baggage. But how much should the reader like the character?
Well, it would not feel authentic if all characters were flawless, nor if all characters were evil. It’s about getting the right balance so even the hero has flaws and the evil character has redeeming features. Or at least that’s how I do it. My fiction deals with reality but with a touch of something unusual — or that’s how I describe it. It is grounded in reality, but I do like it if a character is ordinary but feels extraordinary. This was how someone described Lydia and I was chuffed with that.
There have been many challenges with the new novel and characterisation is most definitely one of them. I want Amy to be a victim who wears a mask, but I also want her to feel like a real person and I confess I still struggle with her. She’s the kind of character who bosses me about and I have to keep her in check! But I think I’m almost there as I approach the end of another edit and hope it’s about ready.
Getting the characters right is so important for that connection I go on and on about (yeah I know!) But they are your vehicle for doing justice to the story. And as Stephen King put its, love before horror. Make the reader care about your character before you put them in peril — if you want the reader to stay for the journey.
And we all love it when we get to know characters and especially, as a writer, it’s great when people say they want to meet the characters again. Of course there are many trilogies and crime series where we do just that. And taking that a step further look at how close we come to feel to, let’s say, soap characters.
I was watching Daybreak this morning when Lorraine made a suggestion that I have been saying for years! I want to see a character in let’s sat Corrie, who pops down to London for a bit or forever, or a character in EastEnders who moves to Manchester (lots have!) make an appearance as the same character in the other soap! Hell — how many EastEnders characters end up in Spain? Maybe one could pop over to Benidorm for a while! I think the public would love this and I think we should get more liaison between TV production companies to do this to characters?
Writers of the novel do it all the time, in a way when characters have walk on parts in other novels, so why not take that further?
One of the questions Parthian asked me and one I now ask other writers is — and I would love people here to comment — if you could be friends with any FICTIONAL character, you have created or read or watched on TV, movie etc. who would it be and why?
Mine — well here I am talking characters I have created — would be Lydia Collins.
Have a great day everyone!