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Characterisation Continued…

October 27th, 2017

First, thanks to Colin for last week’s post. I think he provided plenty to think about when you’re getting to know the characters you create. And it really is a case of knowing them thoroughly if you are to make your readers care about what happens to them.

So, I’m going to add six points of my own that I think are important if you are to persuade your readers to get involved in the lives of your characters:

    1. It should be your aim to create individuals who leap off the page, exuding energy and creating dramatic impact. They must be more exciting and more attention grabbing than the ordinary people we meet in our normal workaday existence.

  1. But they must still be believable! Even if you create characters as exotic as Count Dracula or Hannibal Lector, you must draw them so vividly and give them so much presence and personality that they come alive.  By doing this your readers will be prepared to suspend their disbelief and be ready to believe that in the fictional world you have created these people could easily exist.
  2. As Colin said, make sure you know your characters intimately – but don’t give this information to your readers in a big ‘dollop’. It will slow down your narrative.  Instead, feed in descriptions in small drips and let your characters show the reader what they are like, rather than you, the author, telling them.  Alternatively, show how your protagonist looks through the eyes of one of the other characters.
  3. Make sure you choose good names. You can suggest a great deal about a person’s age and background by the name you give them.  It’s important that you select a name that accurately reflects the personality and background of the person you are creating.  As a rule, aim for short, sharp, powerful names for strong characters and longer, more fussy names for weaker characters.  And remember, names can tie your characters to a particular age group.  If a female is called Doris or Edith she will probably be elderly; if she’s called Ellie or Emma she will probably be in her late teens.
  4. Never try to introduce too many characters at the same time – this will only end up confusing your readers. Give each character time to become established in the story before introducing the next.
  5. Avoid stereotypes at all costs! The bumbling vicar, the blonde bimbo, the beer-swilling rugby player – they’re great for a quick, cheap laugh but they aren’t realistic or believable.  Inhabit your stories with memorable people – fully-rounded, surprising and intriguing individuals.

And while we’re on the subject of wonderful characterisation, I’ve just been reading ‘ A Country Road, A Tree’ by Jo Baker which is about Samuel Beckett (probably best known for ‘Waiting for Godot’). Although he comes across as a rather perverse man who was difficult to get to know, the author still manages to provide a character that you feel empathy for – and, most importantly, you care about what happens to him. The writing is lyrical and gives an incredible insight (whether accurate or not) into why he wrote like he did. I’d definitely recommend it!

Now for news from The Writers Bureau. If you’re tempted to write about yourself or your family there’s £25 off our Biographies, Memoirs and Family Histories Course until 5th November. So, if you’re looking for something to do now that the nights are drawing in, this is a perfect opportunity to take up a fascinating hobby and save some money.

We’re also currently running a FREE student-only competition. All we want you to do is write a short 150-word readers’ letter about an animal. It can be a humorous true-story, a tragic tale, a stance against some injustice or you may think of some other interesting angle. But we also want you to take a photo to go with your letter or, if you can’t take your own photo, supply a copyright free image that we can use on the blog. This is our second student only competition and we very much hope that you’ll take part. The closing date is 28th February 2018 so you’ve got plenty of time to get your entry in. Go to our website and log in for full details and how to send your entry.

My guest next week is long-time Writers Bureau tutor, David Kinchin, who will be giving tips on choosing the best title for your fiction or non-fiction book.

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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