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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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!
Here he is looking very much like a tom cat with attitude!