Characters and journeys

Between my attempts to get some writing done I have worked my way through the obligatory list of tasks that required completion this week before we pack up and head off on a road trip. Like changing the washer on that tap that’s been dripping for months. We will travel to Byron Bay for a few weeks to surf and enjoy some warmer weather. A journey within a journey. My laptop will accompany me so I can continue to work on my novel with some inspiration from the Australian landscape and the characters I meet along the way.

When I started writing I spent a bit of time developing the personalities of the characters for my novel. I wrote back stories for the main players that explained how they came to embody who they are at the start of the book. Most of this material will never be included but was necessary for me to understand them.

All of the characters are completely fictitious, except one. A colleague from my workplace inspired my protagonists sidekick. Before I started my long service leave I decided I’d better tell James and check how he felt about it. He was flattered, but a little cautious. What kind of person had I made him? I promised I would give him some material to read in due course and if he wasn’t happy about the idea I would make changes to the character to create more distance.

I emailed the first three chapters to James this week and waited to hear what he thought, holding my breath figuratively speaking. To my relief he said he loved the story and was happy with the persona he’d inspired (particularly the six-pack I gave him). James is my favourite person in the novel and he’s a great foil for my protagonist, Jude Lawson. He and his relationship with Jude are what injects humor into the story and I enjoy writing the banter they have.

The process of developing the personalities of all the characters in the novel included deciding on names, age, occupation and character traits. I wrote personal story lines to identify what drives each person and what their hidden agendas are. I wrote a back story to find the ghost of each character. I wrote about what has made them the person they are at the start of the story and how they know the other players. I explored what each character wants that they won’t admit to themselves as well as what they want in concrete terms and why it is important to them. I wrote about the conflict that exists to works against them reaching their goal. I tried to find any epiphanies they might have as events unfold and I told the story in summary from each main characters own point of view. It resulted in thousands of words that will never appear in the book but were necessary to find depth in the people. The process of getting to know them is similar to getting to know a real person and they continue to reveal more of themselves to me as I write.

Packing the car will be tricky as I have to make room for all our stuff and my imaginary friends. There’s nothing like travelling to test friendships. I hope they all travel light and and don’t argue about directions or ask ‘are we there yet’ too often.

Image: unformed characters…

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