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Praecedo – May 2011

May 1, 2011

Your editor has not long returned from a week’s holiday in Cornwall, so is a little behind himself at the moment (which is why this post is inexcusably late!).

Whilst on holiday, as well as indulging in far more food than was healthy for me, I went on a ghost walk round the small town we were staying in, a walk led by a local storyteller. The whole thing was highly entertaining, but for two sceptics such as my wife and I, probably not for the reasons the storyteller hoped.

As stories, they were very good, and so earnestly told that for days after, and much to my wife’s annoyance, I couldn’t help but repeat key phrases, embellish upon the stories, and add new ones. And so by the end of the holiday, the character of Shifty Bumbum, local storyteller and historian in the sleepy village of St Sept, had been fully fleshed out.

Many of the characters I create are inspired by others, usually by exaggerating a trait they possess, and adding in some backstory relevant to the setting, or to explain how they came to be the way they are. Gideon and Maria in the Long Watch were created this way. Only rarely do characters spontaneously generate themselves out of the aether. The notorious Captain Juan is a rare example of a character who pretty much created himself.

This month we’re exploring character creation–what to do, what not to do (see, the preceding ramble was relevant after all!). If you have a strong plot, but weak characters, you can generally stumble along fine. If you have strong characters and a weak plot, again you’ll probably get through it. But take strong characters and drop them into a strong plot, and you’ve got a hit my friend.

I hope you pick up lots of useful tips on how to create believable and richly nuanced characters over the next month.

I’ll speak to you again on the 31st, with some news about the site…

Keep writing!

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