A Fully Loaded Balloon of a Character

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In the Futurelearn Start Writing Fiction course we’ve now moved on to Finding and Developing Fictional Characters, so I thought I would share with you some writing nuggets of wisdom.

We have been studying Josip Novakovitch’s methods of finding and developing fictional characters.

Of course there are numerous ways to develop characters. This is not rocket science, but the following gem of wisdom is.

Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an UNTOLD story INSIDE you.”

Maya Angelou is right. If there is a story inside of you, don’t keep it to yourself! Share it with the world, draw upon your own life as a starting point. Why not? Everybody has a story inside of them, reach in and you’ll find it.

Then look around you. What about your family and friends? Delicately mould these starting blocks into something new, but don’t just produce carbon copies of the originals. Blend and mix on tap resources of inspiration, use your observational skills, listen to the way people talk, and the way they interact with other people, refer to a wide range of readily available information, such as internet search engines, books, and don’t turn your nose up at strange sources of inspiration, embrace them all.

The key is to use your imagination. You need a tree load of inspiration.

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Without this your characters may disappoint and burst like an overblown balloon. Or else they will fall flat onto deaf ears. Just make sure they aren’t full of hot air!

Let your imagination soar, and your characters will be fully rounded, developed and ready to lift off like a released balloon, or even a hot air balloon, soaring to the highest heights.

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Success!

Allow your writing to evolve spontaneously.

Novakovich quotes Mel Brookes, Somerset Maugham, Erskine Caldwell, and Graham Greene.

Mel Brookes: “Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities, and have them relate to other characters living with him.”

Erskine Caldwell: “I have no influence over them. I’m only an observer, recording. The story is always being told by the characters themselves.”

Graham Greene, “One gets started and then, suddenly, one cannot remember what toothpaste they use…”

Graham Greene’s quote is spot on, when things just start to happen spontaneously and the story carries the author along, then you know that you’re on the right track.

Somerset Maugham: “People are hard to know. It is a slow business to induce them to tell you the particular thing about themselves that can be of use to you.”

That’s the key and that’s why imagination is so important.

Somerset Maugham, also gave us these humorous gems of wisdom:

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I especially like this one, there’s hope for me yet! There’s no age bias in writing, as long as my mind stays fresh, what is there to stop me writing when I’m older?

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Getting back to my own writing experiences. I didn’t set out to follow any particular method. To be honest I stumbled along, and discovered my characters in quite a haphazard way, but in general I used a variety of approaches, which seemed to work for me.

In fact when I finished my novel I was struck by the realisation that I could see my own anxieties interwoven into my plot. This was obvious to me but might not be quite so obvious to other people reading it. I don’t have a sister or a twin so I can’t say that I write about siblings. I do have a brother but I don’t think that he influenced my writing, certainly not in this novel. Maybe who knows, he might do in future projects to come. To a certain extent I do write about my experiences, I have two teenage daughters, so it’s not surprising that the main protagonist in my novel is a teenage girl. There are male characters too. I have re-invented the main love interest for a modern audience. Is he based on anyone I know? Maybe there are elements of him in men that I have met! I’m a Scorpio and I do like to be secretive, so I’m not saying anymore. I think that we draw on all sorts of influences and this shapes our writing and the characters that we discover along the way, some of these influences may be conscious and some may be less conscious, and more exciting!

Images – via google search.

Writer’s journey – How did it all happen?

Well how did I start writing? It was quite odd really. I used to write as a teenager. At the time I had a ginger tom cat called Chester, Mr. Popularity, everyone loved him. He liked to venture afar and we would often have to rescue him. I remember one occasion in particular, my brother and I ended up trudging through the woods, in Blackhall in Edinburgh, to pick him up from a house in the vicinity. He ended up at the most peculiar places. One time he chose to visit a house with thirteen cats! He is a tom cat with attitude!

I told you he liked company. So it seemed natural to  write about cats,  and I kept a diary. My dad was and still is one of my other great sources of inspiration.  He has travelled extensively to the Far East, and Middle East and is a wonderful raconteur.

As far as my writing is concerned the inevitable happened.  I was the typical teenager. I got distracted. I found boys, discos, parties, and my writing suffered. Somehow I didn’t pick it up again for a very long time. This is a regret. A massive regret. But what can I do? I can’t travel back in time, I don’t have a Tardis. So I just have to accept that the time is right now.  You see, I’m still this young girl at heart, just stuck in an older and maybe wiser body. I have experienced more, travelled more, lived more, so hopefully that will make me a better writer.

Several events came together to ignite my desire to write again. First of all I read a lot.  At the time I was reading Dorian Gray and it was definitely a novel that captured my imagination and set my mind free. Also my eldest daughter was studying GCSE Art and I took a sudden interest in art and photography. I’m not saying that I can paint or draw, though I wish I could. No, I enjoyed watching her artistic development and I enjoyed sharing ideas with her and encouraging her.

All of these influences helped me to write my first book, a children’s/YA fantasy set in Cambridge, which I have now published. The female protagonist in my novel is a teenage girl who paints a puzzle of art. But it is by no means a novel simply about Art. She expresses her sadness, and discovers her magical powers, through the medium of painting and via crystals and well the rest you will find out when you read the book. Let’s just say that a lot happens and I think that it will keep you entertained!  Well I hope so anyway.

Also I know this sounds crazy but my other source of inspiration was a black cat, a  throw back to Chester.  I had never seen this strange black cat before and suddenly he just started appearing in our garden. There was something different about him. He appeared  like a miniature panther, all glossy and splendid, looking for attention, with his mesmerising eyes, I fell under his spell. He liked to show off, he would disappear into thin air, climb to ridiculous heights, or chase his tail around the garden like a demented clown. He just had to play a part in this book too. Lets just say he has a subsidiary part to a main character, who is male, young and very interesting too, just like him. That was the beginning. Looking back I am amazed that from just a few initial thoughts my idea just seemed to grow and grow. Now my debut novel is nearly ready for the final edit. How did that happen? I couldn’t be happier in fact if I had a tail, I’m sure I would be whizzing around and around chasing it with excitement!

Update: I  released my first book The Curse of Time Book 1 Bloodstone in August 26th 2017 in kindle form via Amazon. The paperback is now released too.

M J Mallon _ YA Author

To buy follow this link:  http://mybook.to/TheCurseofTime
Unique Selling Point: Unique, Imaginative, ‘Charming, enchanting and richly layered this is purely delightful.’

“This delightful book will appeal to teens and young adults who love stories filled with magical crystals, dark family curses, and mysteries waiting to be solved around every corner. Each chapter leads you on a journey of discovery where Amelina earns the right to use three wizard stones to reset the balance of time and finally break the curse that holds her family hostage. A captivating tale!” – Colleen M. Chesebro (Editor)

Bye for now, xxxxx

M J Mallon Author – The Curse of Time – Book 1  Bloodstone

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Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
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Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time
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