*Yawns* Is the weekend over already? No, I needed more sleeping-in time! *has to be prised away from quilt* Oh well, guess we all have to plough on and get Monday over with. As it’s Manic Monday again, (and I’m now caught up with work after being off), I thought today’s post could be about choosing characters in books – at least from a writer’s point of view.
How do our characters come to us? Is it in a coffee-addled haze? Is it in a dream? Or is it from someone we know? Characters can come from all these sources, but at some point, each one is going to need some extra tweaking and planning. So what’s the process of character creation?
The Coffee-Addled Haze Character
Otherwise known as, I’m-actually-writing-something-else-right-now-but-I’m-procrastinating-and-this-came-to-me. The coffee-addled character most often turns up when we’re supposed to be doing something else. Usually writing. This character is the least offensive, but the most certain one to bug you until you write it down. Somewhat whiny and hyper from the addition of caffeine, this character will push your story process aside and demand to be carefully noted down on a bit of paper, sure to be forgotten again. They have a short shelf-life, as most of them are forgotten once a writer gets back to the careful task of doing the story again. But bits of them may pop up in background characters of many books, breeding like rabbits, useful because of their barely-worked-out details beyond how they look.
The Dream/Nightmare Character
These characters are easily the most slippery, and yet can be the ones to make the biggest impression. Dream characters (otherwise known as the good guys) can turn up in the sweetest of dreams, and sometimes the sexiest. Often used as fodder for the heros and heroines of stories, they make a big impact with their presence, appearing realistic enough for noting down, but fuzzy enough to have bits added on to fit their book. Often they seem to come semi-naked, perhaps from having to squeeze through the membrane of dreamland. No one needs gooey bits on their nice clothes.
Nightmare characters are much the same, but are most prominently used for the villains of a piece. Depending on the attractiveness of the character, they can emerge to become a villain that is both hated and lusted after, quickly earning the inst-hatred of all other characters. Fond of dark rooms due to their inability to find light switches, they often hang about in corners, waiting for a moment where the writer is worrying about that book they can’t find in the spare room. An uglier villain will have the same impact, but will most usually be used as part of a ‘team’ of villains in anything but horror novels.
The Hey-Don’t-I-Know-That-Person Character
This is both the easiest and hardest character to make up. Being based on someone the writer may know, the overall character has a good grounding in realism, how they look, and how they react to events. However, the character must be tweaked to avoid absolute recognition, especially if said character is less than complimentary. (Beware, writers can and will take notes if you annoy them. Don’t blame me if you end up in Mr Nightmare’s dark room. *gulp* ) Not everything can be reversed, but usually the character becomes an exaggerated version of the real person, perhaps even to the point of becoming an annoying feature to the reader. They are then usually irritated by the character until said character finally perishes in a remarkably comic death.
The Mary-Sue Character
Arguably the character with the least development, and usually female, this character is like Marmite – either loved in the extreme, or hated in the extreme. The character will usually have a basic description of looks, but they tend to adapt easily to allow readers to ‘imprint’ themselves. For example, “Her blond-black hair.” Or similar. The character will display little emotion to events happening around them, unless it’s to point out that the event is ALL about them and no one else, and possibly to stamp their feet until an equally drippy hero/heroine comes in to save them. Unable to do much for themselves, the poor Mary Sues must flap their arms and gasp a lot until someone turns up to move the story along for them, allowing the reader to finally move onto the next piece of self-centred action.
The Historical Character (usually just added to Historical Fiction, but can turn up anywhere)
These are the character based on actual figures. Much like the Hey-Don’t-I-Know-That-Person Character, they are covered in great detail, but unlike them, the Historical Character must be studied carefully to understand their inner thoughts. Easily one of the most exciting characters to discover, the writer can use actual events and decisions of the person to work out what they would have thought of a situation. Part-Encyclopaedia, part-psychic abilities, this character should have the earthy charm of the realistic person, but the otherworldly dreaminess that can only come from being pushy enough to decide the inner thoughts of one of history’s greats.
The Perfect Character
This character is as rare as blue mushrooms growing on your head, and twice as yummy. Usually the secondary character who becomes a hero or heroine in the second book, they tend to have a hefty back-story artfully woven into the novel in bits and pieces. They will be good-looking, but not too good-looking, and everything you want in a hero, but not too much. In a word, flawed. These tend to become the characters the writer will think of with most fondness, They are most commonly found in the most angsty situations, offering much-needed back-up to the main character, or giving worthy advice in the middle of the plot twist. As they enjoy being in the centre of any tension-charged situation, these characters can often end up dead by book three, simply to pull out the emotions in the reader to urge on getting rid of the villains. *sniff*
So what do you think? What other characters could go up here, what have I missed? I’m sure there’s plenty more. 🙂