Wednesday 1 June 2011

Characters - with Maureen Lee & Fay Cunningham

Fay Cunningham's latest

Today I'm delighted to have Maureen Lee and Fay Cunningham on my blog. they have been kind enough to         share their ideas on how to produce compelling and 3D characters.
Fay Cunningham has this to say about how she develops her characters.
First I have an idea – then I either people my plot with characters or design a plot to suit the characters I have created. I start with physical characteristics of my main characters and add things as I go along. I like to let them develop in their own time with their own little idiosyncrasies. Some characteristics are taken from real people, but in the main they are entirely imaginary.  I like to create gorgeous alpha males and strong, beautiful women, and then give them a few flaws taken from real people. I like to refer to a photo to get an idea of type, but often change eye or hair colour.
I see and hear my characters. They are very real to me when I am writing about them. The way they speak and the way they phrase sentences gives them individuality. I visualise action scenes, see inside buildings, and feel the rain or sunshine. An emotion has to be experienced to write about it convincingly.
I don’t have too many main characters and I make sure the names are different enough for the reader to remember. My walk-on characters don’t usually have a name. If they have a name, they become important to the reader.
I use mannerisms sometimes. Catch phrases are often too obvious, and accents are just confusing. The way a character phrases a sentence or raises an eyebrow can be useful, but used to excess mannerisms become a cliché. Characters gain individuality from the way they behave and how they deal with a given situation.
Maureen Lee's latest book
on Kindle for £0.99
I write mainly in the third person, but occasionally first person. I use multi-view point when necessary, but I don’t think a woman can ever know how a man thinks. A man writing from a woman’s viewpoint doesn’t work, either.
Unfortunately my characters run away with plot all the time. I have to keep hauling them back and telling them to behave themselves.
As I write thrillers as well as romance one of my characters might kill a villain. I don’t like to read about the death of a child or an animal, so I don’t subject my readers to that kind of trauma either.
Both character and plot are equally important. In an action/adventure or crime novel the plot is obviously very important, but plot is nothing without interesting characters. Romantic fiction demands memorable characters but needs a good story line as well. The answer is – it depends what you are writing. 
Maureen Lee has slightly different ideas to Fay
The idea for the plot will automatically contain characters so you start with both.
I don't write a biography or back stories for my characters. Apart from a single instance in one book, they are imaginary.
I never under any circumstances cut photos out of magazines to use as your main characters?
I see and hear my characters.
How many characters will work depends on the plot and the length of the book. I must admit my spirits wilt a bit when I start a book that has a list of characters and their role in the book at the beginning. I suppose the author should begin to realise after a while she/he is introducing too many people.
It depends how important the character is to the plot how much individuality they need. It is a good idea to have a bad-tempered bus conductor, for instance, who appears just once, or a helpful, smiley assistant in a shop. The main characters can be described as fully as you want.
It is true that sometimes you introduce a character who you like so much that they play a much more important part in your book than envisaged. Some seem so extra real that, in my case, I look back on them as if they really had lived. I had an Armenian solicitor in The Leaving of Liverpool who died about three quarters of the way through. I became really fond of this character and deeply regretted him leaving my book. The same thing happened with a character in Mother of Pearl. One day I might well bring these people back to life.
I have twice had a child killed and it really upset me. Once a dog nearly died, but was found to be still alive on further inspection.
In my opinion plot and character are as vitally important as the other.

I think Maureen and Fay have covered the ground admirably I won’t burden you with my opinion about characters. I'd like to thank them for taking the time to drop into my blog today.

Next time I shall explain some of the things a young lady should know in Jane Austen's era.