Saturday, December 27, 2014
[Link] Creative writing: when characters are difficult to get on with
Even authors as seasoned as Stephen King often struggle to fully imagine their inventions and once they have, the relationship can remain very uneasy
Characters don’t always do what you want. Sometimes they cause mischief, take on lives of their own, or even work against you. It’s not just a problem for inexperienced writers: George RR Martin recently admitted it was a struggle to write from Bran’s viewpoint, while Roald Dahl said he got Matilda so “wrong” that when he’d finished his first draft he had to start again from scratch.
Of course it’s not the characters’ fault. The problem lies with the author. Take Stephen King, who confessed to Neil Gaiman that writing protagonists in blue-collar jobs is more difficult nowadays because his own circumstances have changed. “It is definitely harder,” King said. “When I wrote Carrie and Salem’s Lot, I was one step away from manual labour.”
This is also true for characters’ ages, added King. “When you have small children of a certain age, it is easy to write about them because you observe them and you have them in your life all the time. But your kids grow up. It is harder for me to write about this little 12-year-old girl in Dr Sleep than it ever was for me to talk about five-year-old Danny Torrence because I had Joe as a model for Danny. I don’t mean that Joe has the shining like Danny – but I knew who he was, how he played, what he wanted to do and all that stuff.”
For other authors, the difficulty can be a question of tone. When I asked Siri Hustvedt to name the character who made her struggle the most, she chose the narrator of her third novel, What I Loved. “Despite the fact that Leo is 70 (I was in my forties then), a man, a Jew born in Berlin, and an art historian, none of which describes me, I didn’t find it hard writing as an old, Jewish, male art historian,” she says. “I struggled to find the man’s emotional tone, the cadences of his prose.”
Read the full article: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/nov/21/characters