In the early stages of drafting As Weekends Go, I gobbled up every nugget of writerly advice going – I still do – you never stop learning and any guidance is invaluable.
I’d already created detailed profiles for each of my main characters, some secondary characters too, i.e. ages, physical descriptions, family backgrounds, schooling, jobs, habits, likes/dislikes, friendships, relationships, star signs. A further suggested exercise that proved brilliant for me was “literally” interviewing them. Instead of writing a structured Q&A for each, I let them chat away on the page (so to speak) to see how they viewed themselves, to hear their voices and obtain an insight into specific personality traits, hopes, values, etc.
Here’s a brief glimpse at two of the main cast members – random facts in no particular order – to further illustrate what I mean :
“Hi, I’m Rebecca Stafford, married to Greg for four years, no children as yet, but having now moved into our new home, we plan to start a family, which I’m so excited about. I just hope Greg’s workload reduces. He’s been so stressed lately – a bit snappy too, (between you and me) – and could really do with relaxing a bit more. I do worry about him.
I’d say I’m a good listener, diplomatically honest, as I hate to hurt people’s feelings. I’m quite a home bod, and I love the company of my friends and family, especially my best friend Abi who I’ve known for years. I dress in what suits me. I’m not a dedicated follower of fashion as they say, but I do take pride in my appearance.”
“Hello, I’m Alex Heath. Describe myself physically? Well, I’m very fit – in the sporty sense (I wasn’t being vain!) as my profession demands it. I’ve always been active, trained hard and appreciated all the challenges and rewards it brings. I’m not really into the celebrity thing and shy away from publicity even though I know it’s all part of the job. I think it’s important to stay grounded, have good friends and family around me and never forget what a privilege it is to be doing what I love.
I’m a good judge of character. Some people say I can be stubborn, (my mum, usually!) which maybe I am, but it helps me to focus on what’s important. Nobody likes being taken for a fool, do they? Do I like being rich? Well, it certainly has its advantages. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise, but I’m level-headed with money; prefer spending it on other people than myself.”
Now, I know these exercises won’t necessarily be for everyone. Admittedly, a lot of the pre-interview detailed character profile information I didn’t actually use in the book, i.e. Rebecca’s favourite film or her opinion of her first boss, but it did give me an insight into how she might react in certain scenes, or to the various people she met, whatever the situation. Same with Alex. So too, with my other main characters.
I did the same thing for my second book which I’m currently writing. If you think interviewing your characters is something that might help you develop your own stories, then give it a try. I can definitely recommend it.
Love Jan X
I’m off to the dentist this week which as nice, patient and caring as he is, doesn’t exactly make me want to grab my maracas and samba down the high street (this being the fifth of six visits – broken tooth, root canal treatment and a crown refitted – Oh joy!).
On the flip side, though, my weekly travels to and from the surgery have also helped solve a sub-plot issue in the next book I’m writing. One of my characters wasn’t fully conveying the depth of his shock enough to move the story forward. Something was missing.
Well, bus journeys in my neck of the woods are rarely quiet affairs. Being a writer who is never without her trusty notebook and pen, my ears are treated to all manner of *ahem* lively conversations, one of which, last week, almost made me lean across the aisle and high five the poor woman in question. Her reaction both physically and verbally to her friend’s bombshell news was precisely the emotional ‘oomph’ I wanted from my fictional scenario.
More body language. That’s what my main man needed!
Yes, I felt nosey (although in my defence, this person on the bus was hardly whispering!) but my overriding feeling was gratitude and the realisation that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, where storytelling is concerned, observation is key.
My smile was as wide as this when I reached the dentist!
I’m guessing some of you must have had similar experiences?
Do tell …
Love Jan X