Your characters

Often the central character is the first thing you invent – he or she springs into being in your mind, needing only a name and some personal details. But although you have your protagonist (or your villain) you’re short of a supporting cast.

Kiss of Death is a 1947 film noir movie writte...
Victor Mature as the protagonist in Kiss of Death, a 1947 film noir written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer from a story by Eleazar Lipsky. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or perhaps the story itself is what began the fiction process for you, and you have to find people to live through it on the page or the screen.

Perhaps you have a full cast, but as you write, you realise they’re not all in 3D, and don’t have the credibility you need to keep the reader engaged.

How do you summon them into being? How do you give them all a rich life and personality and history? It’s vital that you do, as the reader will spot a 2D character and won’t like it. A walk-on part may not need a full history and references, but the better you flesh them all out, the richer and more satisfying your story will be.

But note, even if you know every last thing about your characters, you won’t put every last thing in the story, will you? You’ll put in what the readers needs to know and not much more, or else it will be overwhelming, and the book 300 pages too long.

In these pages you’ll find ways to conjure up characters and give them some depth, as well as ways to spark off subplots, endings and other key moments through facets of their personality or track record.

In the forthcoming book of Where do you get your ideas? you’ll find more examples to work on, and in the live workshops you will have more ways to conjure them that can’t be replicated on page or online.


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