Monday, 14 February 2011

Falling in Love With Your Characters

So we were out on a walk and talking about Colin Firth, and whether he was fanciable or not.  I said yes. 

My friend countered with, 'But if you were Bridget Jones, you'd have been much better off shagging Hugh Grant, because he was fun.  Whereas Mark Darcy was set to carry on being stuffy and repressed.'

'Ah, but it's not all about the shagging,' I riposted (I have these intellectual sort of conversations).  'Hugh Grant is all very well in his own way, but Mark Darcy thinks Bridget is perfect just as she is.  He loves her, with all her faults.'

Writing's a funny way of making a living.  You invent this set of people and give them stuff to do, and then see where it develops.  This takes a long time - a year, usually, though the more literary your writing, the longer the industry will give you to produce the book.  You have to love your characters to put up with them for so long.

When I was doing my MA in Creative Writing, there was one WIP I loathed because the main character was so perfect.  Nothing she did was wrong.  Her make up never smudged.  She was kind to children and animals.  She helped old ladies across the road.  These are all good things, but frankly, she was hateful. She wasn't lovable because, unlike Bridget Jones, she had no faults.

Bridget has faults, and Mark Darcy - and millions of people across the world - loves her for it, and we love him for loving her.  So when you're writing give your characters faults. The more faults they have, the easier it is to love them.


Rai said...

this is very true, we often hate people not because they are nasty to us but because they are JUST irritatingly perfect

Jim Murdoch said...

No one’s perfect. They may appear as if they are but all you need to do is change the setting and see them flounder as in The Admirable Crichton or devolve as in Lord of the Flies. That’s why shows like Tenko worked so well because they put otherwise civilised people into situations where it’s hard for them to hide their true selves. Everyone has an Achilles' heel. You just need to find it and exploit it. And it needn't even be a big thing. I once saw my father driven to total distraction by a squeak in his car that he couldn’t trace.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across the term 'Mary Sue' that describes characters who are just too perfect. It began amongst writers of fanfiction, who quickly learned that readers don't want flawless heroes and heroines.

Sarah Duncan said...

No one's perfect, but you'd be surprised how many people write novels with perfect central characters who are never other than perfect. Mary Sue is good, but I prefer the title bestowed on someone else's character: Mrs Shiny Pants. Loved hearing that.