A couple of times yesterday I watched people take actions that were based on superstition and got me thinking; about the oddities in human behaviour. I think we have all at some time used lucky mascots or trinkets; crossed our fingers (I do that), not walked under ladders or crossed on the stairs, not wear green (I love green and do wear it), Friday 13th (I know someone who refuses to go out on that day)…etc. I tend to be contrary as I do love the 13th and think it lucky rather than unlucky. So this got me thinking about where these odd quirks in behaviour come from. And the way we can use these in our writing.
At the heart of good writing is being able to capture character. And while there are millions of humans and we all have things that make us the same; and in fact we bond by using that, there are also many things that make us individual. The better person, in my eyes, is the one who can see through the way we look as well as the odd quirks and like wearing green and thinking Friday 13th is lucky; celebrate in the quirks of human nature: we all have them. So just as when me learn about someone new we come to discover their odd quirks, these are what make them them, then do the same with your fictional characters.
As you know I am really obsessed with voice in my own writing and by that I mean character voice which is a big part of characterisation. So add to that the little quirks; the little oddities and they start to really come to life. I was thinking this as I move through the edits of Chutney. It’s a novel that is very much about the characters; I want my readers to fall in love with George, Runner Bean Billy and even Emma and her ‘Fuckwit’ boyfriend ‘who support Arsenal’. The more I’ve got to know these characters the more their quirks come out but at the same time, as with real people, the more than happens the more we accept them. One of the things I’m looking at at the moment is how the characters need to be consistent from start to finish. Often early drafts suffer from less developed characters as it’s in the writing of the novel we learn about them. So by the time we get to the end we have it down. But now when you look at the opening, often we see things and think: that’s not what Billy would say! And now we edit to ensure consistency — in both voice and action.
So look around you and think about the odd quirks or facets of human behaviour and think about how you can apply these to your writing to add energy and realism. So for example Billy’s coloured gardening pants that reflect his mood, and George only having sugar in his tea when Spurs win and the same number of teaspoonfuls as the number of winning goals.
Welcome to the madness of creating fictional characters that feel real.
That is all folks!