Dec 152013

woman confusedI had a revelation a couple of days ago. I’m still not sure if it was the result of some clever reasoning of my sub-conscience, or because of all the bottles of cough syrup that I drank this week. Having an ongoing cold is never much fun…

In any case, I now realise that I have been a bumbling fool writing my new book.
‘What?’ I hear you say. ‘You have written five books, so you should know what you are doing by now!’
Indeed, I should. However, the fact is that for the first time in my life I have forayed into the realm of fiction, where before I stuck to non-fiction. And let me tell you, those are two very different puppies.

When I first started writing the new book, I very much treated it as I did all my non-fiction projects. Think up a story, divide that into chapters, write the chapters, book finished. This resulted in the new book being an interesting, but flat story without much depth. Although my beta-readers said they liked it, bless them, they also all indicated that ‘something was missing’.

Little did I know that fiction writers sometimes spend months creating a world and the characters that populate it. They give their characters back-stories that never even make it into the book, just to achieve a sense of reality. Just a few weeks ago on the Indie Writers Unite Facebook group, someone asked what attracted us to a character in a book. Most of the answers were that the fictional beings had to ‘be real’.

I realised that the characters in my book were not real enough. They talked to each other and had adventures, but they were not real. I needed to fix this.
Googling the words ‘character development’ I soon found pages and pages of ‘questions to ask your character’. Finding one questionnaire that seemed to fit the best, I copied it into a word document and started answering the questions as one of my characters. The results were surprising. Just by giving the characters a childhood and back-story, their actions in my book started to make sense.

As I said, I was a bumbling fool. Probably still am, but I am looking forward to finishing the questionnaires for all my main characters. It’s a lot of work, but it is worth to see them come alive.


Picture via subscription to iClipart.

  4 Responses to “Making My Characters Real”


    I find that characters definitely have minds of their own and then once you know their story they start doing things that you don’t want them to do! They can be very naughty… you may want them to sew patch work but all they want to do is play with a motor car because they hate girly duties. But the backstories and who they are really make the difference. Have fun with the journey… but consider getting a chair and a whip to keep your characters in line!


      You are right, Michelle! The road a character takes or what they decide to do can be surprising. I will try to keep mine in line! :)


    Once you know your characters very well, you then of course have to ‘get inside’ them, thinking as they do. This is fine for pleasant characters but when your character is a rapist or a man who beats women, it’s not quite as easy. This is when you need a quick way back to reality for your own sanity. One of the biggest challenges for me is to write from a female character’s point of view.


      That is interesting, Des. I hadn’t thought of it that way, yet. Luckily I am writing a comedy and the evil neighbour is more OTT then really evil. But I will try to find an ‘escape route’. :)
      I can image it would be more difficult for man to write a woman. One of my main characters is a man and I still have to see if I can write him. Will be interesting.

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