Getting to know my characters
By Heidi Perks
One of the things I have been very excited to hear from people who have read my book is how much they love the characters. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean they like them all – in fact some you can’t help but hate – but what people comment on is the fact they are believable.
This is particularly warming for me to hear because when I started out writing Beneath The Surface I didn’t get this right. I was more interested with the plot and the structure of the novel, because I felt these were the hardest parts to accomplish and so to a degree I allowed the characters to do their own thing.
This doesn’t work: a fact I learnt pretty quickly when I started getting early feedback. It’s always hard to go back to the drawing board when you think you’ve already cracked it – but with hindsight I realise how important it is.
I remember meeting author, Adrienne Dines, at a festival and she asked me once what my characters looked like. I stumbled and said ‘erm’ quite a bit and then admitted I didn’t actually know. She asked me, ‘How can you write about them when you don’t know what they look like? How do you know how they’ll behave and what they will say when you can’t picture them?’ She showed me a catalogue of faces and suggested I pick out the ones who resembled my characters.
I was able to do this with most of them but when I got home I trawled the internet for more faces until I had an image of every character in my book. (My husband must look at my search history some times and wonder…) And how she was right! It was only then that I managed to accurately and carefully describe the flicks of their hair, and the way their clothes hung – basically all the little details that bring them to life.
It wasn’t just physically either. I had to get to know them as real people. This meant talking to them; asking them how they would deal with situations; imagining them sitting next to me in the car and what we would talk about. I’d read articles that suggest writing out a Q&A with your characters is a good idea, but to be honest I didn’t ever do this. I found chatting with them in every day situations gave me a much better insight than knowing if they preferred blue or red.
If you are anything like me you won’t realise the importance of how much you need to know your characters until you do. Only then will you be able to bring them to life on the page and of course allow them to have believable relationships with each other.
Do whatever works for you to get to know them, but just make sure you do!
A huge thank you to Heidi for this fantastic post. ♥
I don’t know what I’ve done…
Teenager Abigail Ryder is devastated when she gets home from school to find her family gone. Nothing makes sense. Things are missing from the house and her stepsisters’ room is completely empty. But the police think she’s trouble, and when grandmother Eleanor tells her to forget them all and move on, there’s no choice other than face the future – alone.
Fourteen years on, Abi and Adam are a happy couple on the verge of parenthood. But when the past comes back to haunt Abi, the only way forward is to go back and uncover the truth – and reveal the dreadful secrets a mother has been hiding all these years.