Sketching characters

© Creative Commons Zero (CC0)

© Creative Commons Zero (CC0)

It has been a productive week. I have managed to write over five thousand words for chapter one. There is still a long way to go as the minimum number of words for a book to be considered a novel is eighty-thousand. Each scene does get easier though. The more I write about the characters, the more their personalities take shape, and their thoughts and emotions flow on the page.

A technique I have found extremely helpful when planning the plot and sequence of events is to sketch all the key characters. There are three main personalities in my novel and each one of them plays an integral part in conveying the underlying theme of the story. It is important to understand the difference between plot and theme. A plot will be created by the succession of a series of events that will generate action, which is simply the characters’ response to these events from their individual perspective. A theme, however, is never explicit but implicit. It runs through the pages silently but always present, and captures intelligently what the story is really about. I’ve read a book recently, set during the Great War, which told the story of a young man going to France to fight against the Germans and leaving his sweetheart in London. Well, that was the plot. The actual theme was about the loss of innocence.

It is through the character’s emotions a theme is revealed. Therefore creating well-defined personalities will ensure the theme flows effortlessly from beginning to end. When sketching my characters I focus on their physical attributes, mannerisms and immediate reality. This develops a personality in the present time. Then, I give each one a past and a future. When past experiences are interwoven with desires and goals, positive and negative emotions come into the mix and a new persona is born. An accomplished character will be expressed by a well-balanced combination of life experiences, personal values and clear intentions. And all of this through dialogue, action and reflection.

I hope you are enjoying these blogs on creative writing. I have a lot more interesting skills to share in the art of creating with words. Keep tuned!