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Friday, 28 October 2011

COOKING UP THE CHARACTERS

So the story begins and you think you have some delectable characters in the pot. Your plot is moving along smoothly and your characters are developing relationships and interacting. But wait! Maybe you should double back and check the recipe, just to make sure that you have all the right ingredients for each character.

The main character especially should be very carefully developed. Since you are just beginning your story, your characters are probably in the very early stages of becoming who they will be by the time you write The End. So in order to not have to go back and rewrite some of the characters characteristics later on, make sure that they start out with your best intentions in mind. Is everything accurate about them that you want the readers to know? Were you thorough in your planning of each one?

Make sure that he or she is physically developed in the way you really wanted. When you say that Jane is five feet tall, don’t have her later on described as a long legged woman who thinks she would like to become a model. If she has blue eyes, don’t have them suddenly turn brown during the last few chapters or so. This is where notes come in. Always do character sketches on each character and keep them handy so you can refer to them.

If Jane’s brother is emotionally unbalanced up to chapter four then suddenly becomes the rock to all the family, this is going to hit the reader right between the eyes. Keep your characters in a stable balance. If he is getting help for his emotional problems then let it be known in the novel, if that is part of the novel, but don’t turn him into a strong person who everyone can lean on just overnight.

If one of your characters has a deep mental problem and this is the basis of that character no matter what happens throughout the novel, please don’t end the novel with this person all of a sudden becoming the hero in a situation that said character could never pull off.

Try and keep your characters seemingly predictable as well. There is nothing that throws a writer off a book faster than a disturbing personality change. It is just jarring. You are reading along engrossed in the story, then bang, something weird and strange takes place. Your characters are all out of character! What happened to that great sense of humour that Nancy had throughout the story? She was a fun person until up to that point anyway. Where did Dan develop that awful temper when all along he has always been an easy going character? If you must change your characters along the way, do it slowly, and give a really good reason as to why it happens. Talk about it among the characters.
“Did you see Dan today? I never saw him lose his temper in all my life and I have known him since we were kids.” This might help the reader to ease into the fact that Dan has a temper that he has kept hidden from everyone, up until that moment when he just exploded.

Okay, unpredictability can be a good thing, because it makes your characters more interesting and keeps the storyline from being boring, but just don’t drop the bomb on your reader out of the blue. Give a good reason as to why this is happening. Readers like to be led by the hand and fed an interesting and exciting story with a satisfying ending. This way all of your readers will feel fully content when they reach the end.

Happy Writing and Reading everyone!

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