I shared a post yesterday about the novels by Elly Griffiths, set on the north coast of Norfolk and featuring a very believable character, Ruth Galloway. If it wasn’t for the fact that Elly Griffiths and I have never met, I’d think Ruth was based on me! This led me to think about characters in my novels, and came across something I wrote earlier this year; it’s a set of questions for writers to consider, and the last sentence is this:
Maybe it would be an interesting exercise to answer my own questions!
I had started the post like this:
I was thinking about characters today, not any characters in particular but about writers and their attitudes to their characters. To be honest, I only know about my own characters in my books, I haven’t actually talked to anyone else about theirs, but my thoughts came from being a reader, an avid reader, and addicted reader. If I was able to interview other writers maybe I’d be able to ask some questions about this aspect of their writing.
Here are the next seven questions, and how I answer them today:
- How did you decide on the appearance of your characters? Do you have ‘models’ or ‘actors’ – for example a person you know, a well-known person, a portrait or photo of an unknown person you’ve seen? Sometimes my my character’s appearance arrives in my mind instantly in full detail; sometimes it slowly evolves as the character of the individual becomes clearer as I write. Sometimes evens change how my character looks – they may become slimmer, or bigger, taller, neater, more untidy, but usually it’s just tweaks once I have a general idea. Quite often it’s the face which is first in mind, then follows general appearance and other traits.
- If you have totally made up the appearance of your character, how did you do that? Did you ‘build’ them like an identikit image? I have no idea how I do it!! Sometimes it’s as if the image of the person is fuzzy and I have to mentally stare at it to try and pick our characteristics – sometimes, as I said above, as the story evolves, so do aspects of the character’s appearance.
- Do you like your characters? Are you a little in love with your characters? I usually do quite like my characters, although sometimes as the story progresses (as I write it) I like them less – this was particularly true of Neil Cameron who first appeared in ‘night vision’. He later reappear in my most recent Radwinter novel, ‘Saltpans’ and he was thoroughly unlikeable, although this time he did get his comeuppance!!
- Do you indulge your characters and bend plots to make sure all works out for them? Do you sacrifice aspects of the story for the sake of your characters? No, I don’t think I do, I always try and make story-lines realistic within the scope of the novel. It is hard sometimes when you like a character and you want things to go well for them. At the end of ”The Double Act’ one of the characters is very badly damaged by what had happened to him. However there is, I hope, a hint that a better future awaited. Similarly, there seems a slightly bleak future for people in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’
- Do you aspire to be like your character – in appearance or personality? Or would you like to be like them, or even be them? Are you envious of them? I would love to look like Tyche Kane, in the Rosa Czekov story! I think maybe I am a little like Beulah in ‘night vision‘, but I am most like an occasional character in the Radwinter stories, Livia! Not deliberately I must add, it just struck me afterwards!
- Is writing your story like rôle play? Absolutely, 100%!!
- Is it hard to let go of your characters when you finish a story? Yes, but they continue in my imagination, and sometimes I use their continuing story – but not them, elsewhere. I think is particularly so in ‘Loving Judah’, but the characters there are not like any others, just an aspect of their story.
I’ve mentioned quite a few of my books, you can find them all, and others here: