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Sunday, 1 February 2015

WARNING - THIS BLOG MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF ADVICE...and any sauciness is, quite simply, only in your head.

Yesterday I spent a very pleasant and happy day talking about the intricacies of writing with Lynda Stacey.  Well, we did other stuff too, there was playing with my puppy and the kittens (it doesn't matter how innocently I write that, I can hear you all guffawing and snorting and going 'yeah, right, puppy, eh?  Kittens...' snort snort' because I know how your filthy minds work.  I am writing in clean and you are reading in dirty and you should be ashamed of yourselves, quite frankly), generally chatting, eating a lovely lunch and - well, if you ever need to get your house really clean, can I recommend inviting a visit from someone whose own house is beautiful and immaculate, because I can guarantee that nothing else will have you down the back of those bath taps with a toothbrush quite so effectively.

So.  Now, here I sit (in my sparkling clean house, but that's temporarily irrelevant) trying to think of something about which to blog, and it came to me suddenly that I could use something I was talking about only yesterday...

Writing.  All right, you don't need to gasp like that.  I just wanted to share a few words of wisdomish that I have discovered through my many years of ...well, mostly eating chocolate and playing with kittens if I'm honest, but I do write the odd thing, now and again.  Sometimes very odd.

Characters.  We spent a lot of yesterday talking about characters, and how to make them real.  There's a huge temptation, especially if you are just starting out on your writing journey (take sandwiches and a clean hanky, you will need them, it's quite a long way and when you get there the shops will be shut) to make characters who are, what I call, 'puppets to the story'.  Characters who do or say or behave in certain ways, not because that's what a real person would do in the circumstances in which the characters aforementioned find themselves, but because that's the way the story makes them behave. It happens on TV too - how often have you shouted at someone going into the building which contains a murderer/ghostly creature AND NOT TURNING ON THE BLOODY LIGHTS!!! Come on, people, it's hard to hide from someone when you're gloriously lit by every 100 watt bulb in the room!  Let's face it, in real life you'd be groping around the walls and flicking every switch you came to!
Yes, Mulder and Scully, I am looking at YOU

So, in short, don't make your characters do what you say.  Write what they say. Let them be real.  No reader wants to see your strings.  Or your pants, as I can testify. 'Real' characters can lead your readers through the story, because they can relate to them. 'Puppet' characters can only react to the events of your story, and all the time the reader is aware that, behind them, is an author, jerking away.

If you are going to giggle like that, then I despair of you, quite honestly, and you can go and stand outside until you calm down...


Carol Hedges said...

I was going aaahhh at the puppy and kitten bit. See, I have a clean mind and think pure thoughts. Also it's monday and my innuendo hasn't switched on yet. Agree, it is tempting to crate story-fitting characters, and not just as beginner writers. If I catch myself doing this, I always deal with it in the same way. I kill them. PS I might be a robot. So there.

Chris Stovell said...

I call that first stage of getting to know my characters the Playmobil stage when I feel as if I'm moving them round like bits of plastic. It's such a relief when they pipe up for themselves!