Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Getting to know a character

Last time I tried to work on my novel (how pretentious does that sound when you're unpublished?!) I hit quicksand and got bogged down.

I've been trying to understand why, and find a way through, and I think I might have. 

I started by deciding to spend some time with the secondary character who needed to join my heroine for a few paragraphs. I was going to write some scenes that were unnecessary to my story, and would never make it into my manuscript, but which I hoped would flesh out this woman. 

I'd not been writing for long when I decided I didn't like this two-dimensional being. I was so determined to have a mixture of characters in my book, and avoid too much autobiographical inspiration that this woman had nothing in common with me. I think I could have worked with that if she was an antagonist, but she wasn't. She was meant to have a fairly close relationship with my main character. 

Is it a bad thing that she was almost my polar opposite?

Of course not. It's realistic to have characters of different personality types in life.

Am I talented enough to pull it off? 

Maybe not - yet. I just couldn't warm to her. It was like when you walk into a room and instantly have a gut reaction against someone. And I knew she and I were never going to get on.

So I wrote anyway. I let her soften on the page, just a fraction. Then she began to move around a little herself. I discovered something I didn't know about her before. (Oh my! The pretentiousness is multiplying!) I imagined something about her that was completely at odds with something I had already planned for her, and somehow the juxtaposition of the two clicked. It works. It makes her intriguing in her own right. It increases the bond between this woman and my main character, and explains further this woman's interference at the end of the novel, which is, ultimately, why she'd made the cut in the first place.

Best of all, I felt that fizz returning; the itchy fingertips that can't wait to dance across the keyboard. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this post, Abigail! And it's not pretentious at all. You are a writer and playing around with characters is one of the things writers do.

    It's such a smart idea, to write about a character in order to get to know them, without any intention, necessarily, of including the text in your novel. And to discover things you didn't know makes it so worth your time and effort. One of the things I love most about writing is when it surprises me, it feels magical somehow, like something beyond your control. Which it totally is, to some extent!