Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who Are You?

Photo Credit: Jeroen van Oostrom
No I'm not referring to the catchy song by The Who, or the popular TV drama CSI. I'm talking writing, what else?

The most successful writers know that writing convincing characters is the key to successful novels. Think back to your favorites...go on, I'll wait......Ready? Okay good!

I bet it's the characters you fell in love with, am I right? Huh, HUH? Yeah it was, and why is this? Because they feel real. So real, that it's as if you know them, or at the very least wish you did. Or maybe they were jerks and got you all angry but hey, it still worked right? They became 'real' enough to hate.

It's why developing our characters is so important. So how do we develop them? Same way we would get to know people in 'real life', you ask them, who are you? If we don't know them, how can we expect our readers to know them?

I'm working/reading my way through a really interesting and informative writing book called The Creative Writing Coursebook. In essence, it's a collection of writing advice and exercises written by forty authors, all wrapped into one neat little package. Pretty awesome!  One of the exercises is to list 10 items, off the top of your head, then create a character based on these items. It's what they carry with them that tells the story of who they are. Are you with me? Good!

I'm making a conscious effort to implement this technique with my writing. When they reveal something about themselves to me, I make sure to write it down. I'm accumulating cheat sheets for future reference. It also helps me keep all those details straight. It's more than just their hair and eye colour, important as these details are, it's the small things that define their personality that I'm focused on. If my villain is the kind of guy that can't live without a picture of his dead puppy, well, I better keep that in mind.

Now I'm not saying I would do this for every  character that pops up and says hello  in my novel - though it would probably help me understand them all better - but I think my main characters deserve a chance to tell me who they are. 

My heroine has a necklace that she always wears. It was her mother's and it ties her to the woman she never knew. See? That's a pretty important detail! She carries it with her, and it tells her story.

We all carry things with us. It's what makes us, well, us. Below is a list of what I currently have in my bag. I've learned that a normal purse just isn't enough space to carry my personality. That, or I'm just a pack horse (or worse... a hoarder *shudder*). Whatever my *cough* excuse is, here's my list:

* 2 Books - A Games of Thrones by George R.R. Martin & Little, Big by John Crowley
* Writing notebook (which is held together with duct tape now)
* Excel peppermint gum
* Wallet
* Receipt for an editing course I registered for
* Bus pass for January
* House/car keys
* 1 Red pen
* 1 Blue pen
* 3 Tubes of Blistex (apparently I have VERY chapped lips)
* Security pass for my office
* iPod
* 1 Black pen (I guess I need one of each colour?)
* 1 Bobby pin
* Spearmint lip gloss (in case the 3 Blistex run out?!?)
* Hair elastic
* Cell phone
* Newspaper article on Diana Gabaldon's newest book The Scottish Prisoner (The review wasn't all that great, but I'm still going to read the book because she is AWESOME!)

And now, what you really came here for....THE WHO!


Lillie McFerrin said...

Sounds like an awesome book! And, you're absolutely right. I've read books that had amazing plots, with so much potential, but I didn't connect with the characters like I wanted. I want anyone who reads my books to finish the them feeling they made new friends and enemies! Great post :)

Angie Richmond said...

Thanks Lillie. I aspire for the same results :)

Stephanie said...

Great post! I think getting to know the character in a personal way is what makes the reader want to know more. I struggle at times with remembering that even though I may know what the character is thinking, the reader may not know. Thanks for posting the link to the writing course book and for the tips! Oh, and can't forget The Who!! :)

Angie Richmond said...

Thanks for stopping by Stephanie!

I find I do the same. I write my first draft like a skeleton, desperate to get the story out. It's in the editing that I add the meat, add all the inner workings of who the characters really are.

Yay for The Who! Hope you liked the video :)

Diane Fordham said...

Terrific post, thank you. :-)

Angie Richmond said...

Thank you Diane!

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