A RIGHT CHARACTER – by Daniel Abrahams
Having touched on the subject of writing, as in getting down to the job of actually doing it, in my previous article, I thought it was worth opening the door, ever so slightly, on the subject of characters, fictional that is, and the creating of therein.
I prefer to use a sort of ‘method acting’ approach with my main protagonists, and with supporting characters I tend to litter them with bits and pieces of people I see, remember or know, but only the slightest bits.
The reason for this, is that main characters do not have to be described in such minutia, the reader must be left, through the actions and words of the protagonist, to build their own impression of him or her. For me, interaction and dominant reader involvement are crucial to any fictional lead.
For example, take Dale, the lead character in my debut novella The Wooden Heart. He begins the piece in one direction, outlook or attitude, altering as the story goes on through his own actions. He and my writing style move with this.
The reader must be able to adjust their perception, image or understanding of him as he changes. After all, a lead character has either befriended or alienated the reader at the beginning of a story, so only they can decide which way they feel he or she is going, viewed through their own prism.
If characters are too black and white or set in stone, depending on your choice of idiom, you as a writer are reducing room for flexibility and believability, so imagine how the reader will find things.
I have heard of writers using Google Street View to walk through certain towns and so on, then plotting around that. I prefer to have actually walked the route if there was one, that way I can leave out enough detail for the character to fill and for the reader to walk with him or her along with it.
I must add here before anyone cries foul, that I am steadfast in writing from places where I know, have either lived or spent time in. I do not write Sc-Fi or fantasy as such – the human condition is fascinating enough for me. You could say I am more of a stay at home writer in that respect.
OK, so what about the little ticks and nuances of any main character? I prefer to leave that up to dialogue and reaction, once of course, I have outlined certain points: male, female and so on.
As for supporting characters, they get all the little bits that help to make an immediate decision that little bit easier, such as: like, dislike, trustworthy or untrustworthy.
In my next two projects, I am using a vocal inflection in various ways, to help detail two completely different characters. One is a minor inflection aligned to a character trait, the other has grown from that to become a full speech impediment, but it does not denote a trait.
The original inflection does come from somebody I know and have spent time with, so seeing it used in all its unguarded beauty led to me feel it was too good to ignore.
It is a nice directional tool as to the make-up of said person and fictional character.
The second is more involved and is to be used to extend the readers dive into the character, and could be seen as a building block, rather than an immediate indicator.
This minor aspect will become a far greater one when it is attached to somebody you meet in a book or aligned with the lead, who I am hoping at the point of inclusion that readers are fully in bed with, but not in the biblical sense.
In The Wooden Heart, I describe a pub which Dale religiously frequented, you will not be surprised to know the pub exists and that I have looked through its windows dozens of times. Although it is majorly altered now, the original template is still ingrained in my memory. To then sit and through my mind’s eye, view it through his imaginary eye, helped me get further inside his skin.
I think what I am trying to say here is, that I work through the minutia, noticing my steps as I walk a route or the way I pick up a glass and so on, so I do not have to point it out in the piece, leaving that up to the reader.
So, if it’s method acting of a sort, do I suffer wounds in the manner of Dale in The Wooden Heart?
No, I am not mental, just slightly warped out of shape sometimes, but hey, that’s a character trait of my own and if you ever meet me, you will have to decide if you notice it or not and how it makes you feel.
Written by Daniel Abrahams
Daniel Abrahams has released two eBook titles on Amazon: The Wooden Heart and books, bits & bobs.
You can follow him on Facebook at: DPAbrahams or on Twitter @abrahamsdan390.