What’s your favourite book? Which story has the best characters that you’ve ever seen?
Making sure that all of the people involved are at least believable as active members of the world they inhabit is a big must for any writer and should you fail at that task, the compelling storyline you have in mind is very quickly ruined.
I’ve been watching some TV recently and there’s been a specific example of characterisation that I’ve really enjoyed as it’s made me think. Whereas yesterday is today’s back story, so is today the back story of tomorrow.
How many times have you read or watched as a character you know and love does something that, although relevant to the story of now, goes totally at odds with every choice they may have been making in their previous history?
A character in an ensemble show which has been going for years will build up all manner of life that they will be required to carry around with them as each new series arrives but it’s just too easy to forget that these things took place if the latest storyline is just begging to have something else take place.
All of the characters in my ‘Circle’ books have been in that world all of their lives so every time I deal with any of them, I have to always remember that they have personalities that I have to remain honest to. As I write this piece, I can happily report that I’ve been doing a block of prep work on a major character ready for book three in the series, ensuring that all of the foundations I need for them are clearly defined and accurate. I did the same for all the characters in the other books and I’ll no doubt continue to do the same with all the future work I do but the toughest to complete was that of The Elder.
The Elder is immortal. One of the major points that everyone has in the real world is that we’re not going to build up centuries of life experience to form and mould who we are but in fantasy literature, that block is removed. When I was writing The Elder it was always a struggle to create a link through her vast life that I could somehow plan the route she would have taken to bring her to where we find her. Someone who had that many lifetimes of experience would have grown in so many directions that it almost becomes too big a map to draw but within the framework of The Circle I was able to create some interesting character points to help build her personality.
Something that I always struggle with when tales turn to the behaviour and character of immortals is the way they interact with people around them. How can this single ancient being interact with their modern and mortal counterparts? Do you think you’d be able to have a conversation with someone who was over a thousand years old and find that you were readily able to hit it off? Throw in a love interest between say a sixteen year old schoolgirl and an immortal over a century old and quite quickly the water you’re sailing through has become rather murky to say the least.
In the real world, we’re all characters in our own stories.
Each and every day we add a fresh layer to the melting pot that is us and our story rolls on, that fresh layer nudging us ever so slightly as our character evolves. The person we are today may not be the person we are tomorrow as we become the sum of our experiences and each new day brings the chance for a crushing or blossoming of who we are. We just have to remember that the choices we make on any given day will always reflect the experiences so nothing can ever be overlooked when the pieces of us are assembled.