Wednesday, 5 January 2011

C is for Characters

I love the idea that all characters can be flawed. The more flawed they are than perhaps they would be in real life, makes them hugely interesting. And I can allow them to do things that you or I might not do in real life. Equally, I am partial to the concept that characters can come to life, to me, they have become quite real. (No, I don’t mean imaginary friends or anything daft like that) but probably because these troubled fictitious people remind me/us of someone we know, either worked alongside as a colleague or perhaps we used to have a friend that did exactly the same thing that’s being described in the book.

I know I have developed a man who has a nasty streak and I can’t say how or why this has occurred in my book but it is required for the friction between him and his wife to work. He is not real. Tom does not exist, honestly, except in my mind. Bizarrely, his face is featureless, except for his eyes. It is as if I see his world through his eyes, and it is his reactions and responses I need to move the story along.

His reactions bring the artificial situation he faces to life. Early on I drafted his basic outline but then as I wrote I added more flesh to him, as his part grew more complex and relevant to my storyline. The way he responds to any given set of circumstances that I have placed him in is quite a powerful feeling, because I can change the course of his history. The way he treats his wife isn’t good, which leads to tension between them. However as I write about him, he has grown, consumed great chunks of my energy. It’s fascinating because becoming something or somebody I cannot possibly be in real life, well not without a major sex change operation, is fun. It’s also been rewarding and hard work.

I’m not quite sure how I ended up writing so much about him, especially as my book started out about three girlfriends. But he is the husband of my main character, Alicia. And I think I have had more fun writing about his view of his wife than I could have achieved writing from Alicia’s point of view. She is down trodden and needs to escape.

But one of the oddest reactions I’ve had to my storyline is this: I have begun to give Tom some redeeming qualities. He can’t be all bad! He has to have some charm! I don’t won’t to turn my potential readers off by making him too disagreeable otherwise why would a reader continue to read… Am I going soft? No, I don’t think so but I am trying to write a balanced account of a fictitious situation. And if I’m being honest, the more flawed Tom has become, the more interesting it has turned out to write about him.

If your character could have one redeeming quality what would it be?

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