Trust Me, I'm a Storyteller

November 8, 2008

Doing Life and Creating Characters

Filed under: Books & Writing — roundtablewriting @ 2:16 am

It seems even with the best laid plans and advice about time management and procrastinating, I’ve found myself too busy to blog this week.

Who was it who said, “Life is what happens while you’re making plans”? That was certainly the case this week.

Doing Life: a biography of Elizabeth Jolley” by Brian Dibble, a colleague and close friend of Elizabeth’s, and published by University of Western Australia Press, is available in all good book shops now. I received a card with a note from Brian this week to let me know that the book is out and that I am acknowledged in the biography. I corresponded with Elizabeth for over ten years and became acquainted with Brian through my letters to Elizabeth during the last years of her life. I haven’t had time to visit a bookshop this week but my curiosity is piqued and I must buy a copy soon. It is certainly an honour and a privilege to be associated in any way with Brian’s book.

The Picador book is progressing and I’m looking forward to seeing it as a reality rather than a dream. It’s a timely book and one that Meenakshi and I believe will help promote understanding and pity and, as Yasmine Gooneratne remarks in her Foreword to the book, …deliver ‘a powerful indictment of war, of the destruction and tragedy it causes’.” As soon as the book is produced we plan to have a celebration at the Hughenden Hotel in Sydney.

In November the Hughenden Hotel is hosting:

Halcyon Days: Australian Literary Publishing 1965 – 1995
1pm Friday
21 – 5pm Saturday 22 November
The Hughenden Hotel,
14 Queen St, Woollahra, Sydney

The Season of Inspiration writers have been keeping me and Helen busy. This week we have been discussing and demonstrating creating characters and voices. Our published writers have explained how important it is to know much, much more about the characters than ever appears in the book. The writer has to live with the characters and know them inside out before they even begin writing the stories. They need to know how they will act, react and exactly what they would say in any situation the writers puts them into. The writer needs to ‘hear’ the voice of each character and each needs to be distinct from every other character in the book. Characters need to have an interior life, an imagination, dreams and desires.

The November issue of the University of Technology Sydney e-zine Writers Connect features an article by Deborah Abela, ‘Life After Max Remy — What Next After a Series Ends? in which Deborah writes about the importance of knowing your characters. She describes her relationship with her characters in her Max Remy series and how it feels to come to an end of a series of books that involve a cast of characters she has come to know and love.

As a writer, how well do you know your characters? Do you live with them; eat, sleep, walk, talk with them; dream of them; think about them? What do your characters think about? What do they dream of? What are the hopes and desires that motivate them? The more time you spend developing your characters, the more convincing they will be.

As a reader, how important is it for the characters to be convincing? Do you feel that you, too, have come to know the characters by end of a narrative? Does it matter whether you care about the characters?

Today’s Writing Tip

Create and develop a character who is as convincing to the reader as a real person. Get to know your character better than your best friend or sibling. Make your character real, as real as your imagination and powers of invention can achieve.


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