Thursday, March 29, 2007

Character development

I’m really struggling with this story at the moment. So far I’ve written 1500 words and it was like getting blood out of a stone. I just don’t know where this one is going – I have a vague idea but I keep changing my mind about it – but I just have to trust my writing and rewriting ability and keep at it.

I do like my character though. He’s interesting, because he’s an anti-hero; a person I wouldn’t like if I met him in the real world. He’s arrogant, materialistic and fueled by testosterone. He works in a high-powered industry but unlike his co-workers he has a chink in his armour – a conscience, and the dirty tricks his company has played are beginning to catch up with him.

My favourite characters are the ones who are a little bit different and who stand out from the crowd. Stereotypes on the other hand are boring and will do little to keep your readers interested. The tough cop with the heart of gold. The loose cannon. The girl next door. The femme fatale. A good way to avoid stereotypes is to get to know them first. Sniff them out in films, books and plays. Pay attention to how they speak, dress and react.

Once you’ve learned everything about them you can look at your own characters in a different light. Perhaps you’re writing about a gold digger. Instead of just giving her the usual characteristics, put a different spin on it. Perhaps she’s a carer for a sick parent or she’s a single mother, and she’s desperate to give them some security. Or perhaps she grew up in a poor and unstable home and thinks money equals happiness. And instead of making her a clueless bimbo, surprise your readers by giving her a degree or a dry sense of humour. In other words make your characters' personalities rich and multi-faceted like real people and avoid the clichés. Your characters deserve better.