DO YOU HAVE A GOOD CHARACTER?
Mr.Darcy, Howard Roark, Scarlett O’Hara, Lisbeth Salander, Harry Potter*
Much time has passed since I read the novels these beloved characters starred in, and the story in many cases is even foggy, but the place these characters have made in my heart will never be usurped.
Character has always been the key factor in keeping me glued to a novel. If I was heavily invested in their well-being then the night was lost as I sleeplessly read the book through all the travails that assailed my hero (or heroine, as the case may be) and rested only when I knew my hero had come out tops.
And that was not the end of it. After having finished the novel, days passed by in a haze as my thoughts wandered to the excruciating situations my hero had faced and bravely overcome.
These were not two dimensional characters but fully rounded ones that had been very successful in infiltrating my heart. And the test was, when they cried or suffered I cried with them and when they rejoiced my own pleasure doubled.
The character does not exist in a vacuum.
A character has history and a future. Said simply, where he has come from and where he is going. This doesn’t mean that each and every episode in the character’s life has to be documented for the reader. It will at the most lead to ennui.
How are characters developed?
Mulling on your idea for your novel would have already thrown up a character or two for you to expand your story around.
But if that becomes the starting point for your story you could be in trouble a mere fifty pages down the line.
I did it and live to relate the tale.
One of my novels had a Main Character who goes into a coma. When this character first entered my mind I visualized her as a young woman of around 39 with twin children. As I continued the story, though I had envisioned the children to be teenaged, the story seemed to demand that they be very young. I was in a fix. Should the MC become younger or let the children remain older. I did continue writing the story (after all it was a nano novel and whatever else you do you never edit while writing, but there is no limit to the revisions and re-writes after that,lol).
And it was then it struck me.
I had not done a character profile
One of the better ways to tackle a nano novel is to make a complete profile of your characters, if not all then definitely, those of the Protagonist and Antagonist (the antagonist could actually be an event or a character trait in which case that is another post).
Profile should definitely include but not be restricted to physical characteristics and quirks, age and location.
Profiling: An exercise
An interesting exercise is to write as many pages as possible about your MC and at the end of it you could be surprised by the info that turns up. Don’t limit yourself to the MC per se, explore his/her parents, grandparents, spouse/ love interests, children, neighbours, PTA, office colleagues, special interest groups and what have you.
Keep it fun and avoid editing anything you write and then you will have a fount of information which will tell you why your MC does what she does, lol. And you can’t even stop her.
How are you developing your characters? Do they have any special characteristics or quirks? Do you love them or hate them?
*(Pride and Prejudice, The Fountainhead, Gone with the Wind, The Millennium Series, The Harry Potter series)
(This is one in a series of posts written for NaNoWriMo 2011. Strangely, this post is still relevant even today, as Camp NaNoWriMo (campnanowrimo.org) is on in full swing. And I would not be amiss in believing this is going to be relevant many years hence, as long as we keep on writing stories).