The last blog tried to offer suggestions on how to come up with ideas that could be expanded into a 300-400 page novel. Now we might look at – characters.
A novel might be seen as a fine boat cutting through water towards a distant destination. But it needs a crew to guide it. The crew members are the characters. You need to come up with characters that come ‘alive’ for the reader. Let readers love them, hate them, despise them: that is fine but never let your characters be dull.
There is a bit of debate about POV (Point of View). The argument runs that the story should be told from the position of one character, normally the main character. I, in general, subscribe to this but not to the point that we should stick rigidly to this as though it an unbreakable rule. Occasionally the POV can be transmitted through others. But what should not happen, and this is a common fault among beginner writers – The POV should not flit from character to character in a needless way. To do this would throw your novel into confusion and diminish the forward movement of the boat.
The main character will take responsibility to drive the story forward. You need to get a clear focus on who this person is. Always give them a back history so we know where they are coming from. This need not be in the first chapter. It might be chapter three or four when you offer an understanding of the character and how his/her circumstance was before the story opens. I did this by chapter two with my main character, Pearl Fujiaka, in the novel FEAR.
You must like, or try to like, your main character. All right, so he’s a murderer, but see a reason why he came like that. Indeed by the end of the novel the murder might well have been justified and the character is revealed as a hero. Sometimes minor character just will not work. They remain wooden. In that case write them out of the story. I heard of a writer that had written 600 pages before he realized that one of his characters was simply not helping to drive the story onward. Rather than go back through the 600 pages and remove him this writer just sent him into a room and closed the door, and he was never mentioned again. Don’t do this This cheats you potential readers. They have a right to expect more from you.
For beginner writers developing characters can be difficult. Often they end up as no more that cardboard cutouts and a long way from what you had hoped for them. My advice here is learn how it’s done from good writers. You might consider reading Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. Within the first few pages we are rooting for the two main characters. How does he do that? I suggest that new writers take the first few pages of this story and write these pages out with a pen. By doing this you will note stuff that you will not see by a casual read. Bits of conversation and bits of action between the two men will become more clear to you. Yes, it sounds a pain having to do this but I did it years ago and I got a lot from it.
I hope that these few thoughts, sincerely offered, might help a few writers