With my Constructing a Novel course fast approaching, I have been thinking more about Wendy’s House, where I want it to go and trying to flesh out the story a bit more. I find one of the challenges of writing is getting to know your characters. This sounds contradictory, as one is creating the characters, pulling them into existence, but it still takes time and extensive thought to get know to them. Here’s a few things I like to think about and ask myself while I’m building my characters.
What’s their name?
Names are funny old things and I’ve heard many writers say they’ve put words or names together to make new names or have randomly selected from books, films or plays. I usually see a character in my mind first, and then have a think about their name, if one hasn’t come to me already. Will from Wendy’s House has always been Will. Wendy’s name followed shortly after, as did the name for the novel. Will and Wendy’s surnames have come from a book and a film respectively…but I’ll keep those secret for now!
How old are they?
I suppose the scenario of the book often dictates this. I tend to see snippets of characters or scenes and then try to build around them. Why has Will come to this house? Why is he living there? Who else lives in the house? In a way, it’s like planting a seed and seeing what sprouts. This needs time and imaginative freedom. Changing your mind can also be important-it’s not always necessary to stick with your original idea if something else blossoms out of the process. I decided that Will would be slightly older than Wendy. I feel this helps to establish their roles in their relationship, in the house and how each will learn from the other.
Where are they from?
Blane from Latest Mistake is from Scotland. I have always found the idea of characters being from different places appealing. I also quite like accents and this also helps me flesh out who they are and what their backstory is. Once I determine this, I like to do some research. This can take the form of the usual stuff, researching towns, cities, buildings etc. to listening to music and reading about a place; especially if a character loves where they’re from, it is important to understand the mystique of a place, to understand the lure. Wherever their home is, needs to feel like home to me too.
What do they look like?
I’d be interested to know how many writers base characters on people they know. I try to avoid this in all my writing as I think the only place it will lead to is creative disaster! I am a bit naughty however and often seek inspiration in actors, especially in particular films when they’re playing a character who is appealing in some way. Wendy for example, has red hair. I spent time researching shades of hair and was focussed on Christina Hendricks for a while! Creating mood boards as such for things likes determining the look of a character is extremely useful for inspiration.
Really excited to be starting soon and need to get on top of it before the course starts. Though I do have a writing buddy now, who’s taking up a lot of my time!
New puppy’s name is Goose! He’s a handful, but he likes to sleep next to me as I type, so he can stay! 😊