In UCD for Writing Fiction (2) we’re developing characters and bringing a sense of place and atmospherics to students’ writing – last term was Writing Fiction (1) with focus on structuring plot lines. The majority attending this term have works in progress, mostly full length novels, with a few settling for short stories. Their work is varied, diverse and very professional, and they are enthusiastic about editing to publication standard. The ultimate aim for most of them is publication.
It’s by looking at life, meeting new people, wondering about them and putting our spin on them that we come up with fictional characters that leap off the page and draw in our readers from the beginning. While creativity is all important, it can be helped with a little formulaic thinking, particularly when creating characters.
I don’t favour hand-outs, preferring to as it were ‘jigsaw’ information to my writers and let them pick and choose what is applicable for them and their story - sometimes the smallest of comment will be a beneficial trigger. But where the development of character is concerned sometimes emerging writers can find it difficult to believe that as a writer we need to know our characters in detail for us to breathe life into them on the page.
Though all that said, I’ve two hand-outs that have proved themselves:
(1) I call Characterisation – it looks for physical description, as well as personality and hates/loves/passions/obsessions – the most telling.
(2) is a template for creating fictional characters and bringing them to life. The most beneficial aspect of this is answering questions from the character’s point of view.