Getting to Know Your Characters

Here’s a question I have to ask myself often—how well do I know my characters? Yes, I can describe them (features like hair, makeup, dress, etc.) but do I really know them? A few years ago I met a long-lost half-brother. We talked and he was quiet, reflecting on a father he hardly knew. But, I never understood him until he told me about a letter he had written to his father. The response he got, and the way he reacted, gave me clues about the depth of his feelings. When I saw my half-brother walk away, he had the same gait as my father and my eyes were opened fully to his character. In writing, there is that elusive search to reveal a character by his or her actions, rather than through description. They give away their true identity with a gesture, body position, speech and response. In my latest novel, many of my characters are build upon people I know quite well, but others have to be fabricated from observations, etc. My goal is to have none of my characters appear flat (as in this cartoon). And, here’s a secret, one of the key characters in my book is a little like me—Oh, very well, a lot like me!

I feel like a ribbon on a kite

The more I listen to (literary) agents the more I feel like a ribbon on a kite. Which way does the wind blow today?” Many will identify with this comment. After all, one day you Query Letter is not up to the task, the next your word count is too low; another day you chose the wrong sub—genre, and the next you made a grammatical error.

One thing you need to keep reminding yourself is that the ‘answer is blowing in the wind.’ Just hang on to that kite!

Like you, I am hoping that the wind will blow my way. I have published before, have self-published, have a couple of blogs going and believe in the book I have finished enough to stay clinging to the tail of the kite I am chasing!

The Death of Literature, Kiwi Style

A New Zealand school dumped Shakespeare and replaced him with magazines in a bid to get students through their external exams. The change, believed to have been at Aorere College in Papatoetoe about 10 years ago, did not last because the college’s English teachers rebelled against it. But an Auckland University researcher who has written about the incident in her doctoral thesis, Dr Claudia Rozas Gomez, believes it was part of a growing trend to use simpler texts in senior English classes to get students through the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Hamilton Boys’ High School associate principal and English teacher David Williams says there has been a “gradual slippage” towards simpler texts in English departments since NCEA was introduced between 2002 and 2004.

Some students can get through their high school years without having to read one novel. That’s a novel ideal! Read more about this alarming trend here.

Good Judgment and Hard Work

I came across this quote during research for my new book:

“Putting a book together—really putting a book together—is a laborious, handcrafted process requiring years of experience, good judgment, and conscientious hard work” by Jonathan J. McCullough in ‘A Tale of Two Subs’.

How well put and a difficult target for any writer to aspire to. John Grisham echoes these sentiments when he talks about the discipline of his writing routine—three hours each morning, five days a week for six months. I wonder how many budding authors fail to appreciate the amount of hard work it takes to craft a novel? I am learning fast that it is a slow, painstaking process. Coffee helps!

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