One of the problems of becoming a published writer is that people start to think that you have some sort of sage like wisdom that you can magically impart to all who ask.
If only, the Social Media world of Facebook and LinkedIn is littered with all sorts of would be Gurus and their disciples spouting the word and dispensing all sorts of wise words and advice to the uninitiated. Hey ! Don’t get me wrong there are some great people on LinkedIn that are indeed a great source of ‘Writing’ wisdom but most of the rest deal in encouragement and confidence boosting.
Like a lot of writers I get invites to talk to writers groups, of course they don’t want to hear me talk what they really want is for them to take it in turns to read something to me for an instant critique, which again is not something they really want to hear, especially the truth.
Therefore, what I do instead is set myself up as one of them, someone with perhaps more experience in where I’ve been, how I got where I am, the mistakes and pitfall to avoid and so on. What I prefer is a straight question and answer session, and the most popular questions are variations about story plotlines, or how to create characters and make them believable?
Of course, here I’m talking fictional stories, and depending upon the chosen genre it is essential to start the story with something that will hook the reader immediately and then flow in a believable way from there. This is where the creation of the of the characters who are going to bring your story to life comes in.
I have read many great stories that should have pulled my emotions every which way but failed because the characters were poorly created or unbelievable in the role. Whether you realise it or not reading a book is a flat 2D world and it is up to us as writers to turn our story into 3D in the mind and imagination of the reader.
We need the reader to get involved with the story and we achieve this through the characters we create. So decide early what emotions you want from the reader towards each of the main characters. Of course, here is also the place for creating deception in the story by making the reader dislike a character that may later turn out to be the hero or vice versa.
Our characters must, at all times, remain in character, unless in the story they temporarily step out of charter for a reason, but make that reason clear or you run the risk of the reader being side tracked into thinking “so and so wouldn’t do or say that”.
The emotions we create for our characters, in any situation, only come alive if we can also induce them into the reader, we want them to smile or laugh with the character, feel sorrow and pain and yes, even cry real tears with them.
So, where do we find the inspiration to create our characters ? Please do not be tempted to use real people, like family members, friends or acquaintances, remember they might one day read your work and may be less than flattered at your portrayal.
In my Inner Space, Nick Burton Murder Mystery stories I have been told that my characters feel genuinely real, and of course, in many ways they are and hopefully when you meet them they are people you want to know and take an interest in what happens to them. But No; I am not Nick Burton, although I have been told that he and I do share many annoying similarities and one or two better bits.
However, most of the key characters are created out of bits and pieces of real people from my past and of course, but I create their physical appearance to suit the part they have to play. In this instance, the most important piece you take from real people is knowing how they would react to any given situation.
We all know people who when faced with any new or difficult situation will stand well back saying, “Someone should do something” with no intention of ever being that someone.
Then again, I’m sure we also know someone who is first in, taking charge, dishing out instructions and so forth. So you get my drift, we all know a lot of people, from the very old, to the very young. From the very timid to the rash and bold, males as well as females, study them and use them all as required.
Of course, it also helps if you are someone like me, someone who in life has been around many blocks, had many opportunities to travel to far off places and mix with people outside your normal world. In addition, of course, you need to become a serious people watcher and something of a nosey bugger to boot.
Frequent busy places, train stations, airports, cafes and supermarkets are great places to people watch, sit there long enough and the whole world will pass before your eyes. Yet, listen as well as watch, some of my best character quotes, or misquotes have come from complete strangers passing though my life.
Next Question please.