richard harland's writing tips

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Characters
 

 

Other Characters Topics

 

2.Physical Appearance

3.Character Point of View

 


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1. Creating Characters

 

(iii) PAST BIOGRAPHY

 

Characters take time to come to life. You can have a great idea for a character, you seem to see him or her clearly in your mind’s eye—but you’ll only know what you’ve really got after he or she has been speaking and acting for a few chapters. With characters, you just have to plunge in and hope.

Sometimes a character will develop their own voice, sometimes a side of their personality will light up, sometimes a character will take off so successfully that you have to allow them a bigger role in the story. Other times, a character will lie flat on the page and refuse to move.

Don’t give up in a hurry! Some characters are slow starters, and only come alive when you give them the right situations and the right characters to bounce off. You can always rewrite what they say and do in earlier chapters.

But if you get to the point of hardly believing in them yourself, then you’ve got problems. Here’s a trick that many writers use, including yours truly. Write out a biography of his or her life before the novel started.

Ask yourself: what happened to him or her as an infant, in childhood, growing up? What influences, what interests, what sicknesses, what friends? Think it all through in a way that fits with your character in the present. Personality traits are nebulous, but past events are substantial. You can get a grasp on what a character is now by seeing what he or she has grown from.

Then—resist the temptation to load it all into your actual novel. This is an invisible biography for your benefit. If it helps you do your job and create the character in the present, the reader won’t need to need to know the full details of the past. A good general principle in writing fiction—and especially fantasy—is: it doesn’t all have to go into the book.

 

 

OTHER CREATING CHARACTERS TOPICS

 

(i) SOURCES FOR CHARACTERS

(ii) THE INNER FLAME\

(iv) SELF-JUSTIFICATION

(v) SHEDDING & MOVING ON

(vi) CREATING CHARACTERS IN GROUPS

(vii) CHARACTER-ARCS

(viii) MAKING CHARACTERS LIKEABLE

 
 

 

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Copyright note: all written material on this website is copyright
1997 - 2010 Richard Harland.