The evening sky from my window
I find myself inhabiting the characters in my new crime novel for most of the day. Even when I am doing something mundane like cleaning out the wine tanks after this year’s amazing wine harvest, I am pondering about my characters’ reactions as the plot unravels; it really is one of the things I enjoy so much about writing.
I do actually find it quite tiring as thoughts strike me at any time which means I have to scuttle off to the study and jot down ideas before they evaporate from whence they came. First thing in the morning when I become conscious is a particularly busy time for characterisation.
Characterisation after all, is such an integral part of writing a narrative, whatever genre you might be involved with. So many decisions have to be made so that a character appears to live and breathe on the page. Do I use description, action, speech, thought or an amalgam?
In fast-paced crime fiction there is little place for acres of description. I know Dickens made a career from it but I’m afraid that doesn’t suit me and I quite like the technique of implicit characterisation where my reader can work out what my character is all about through their thoughts and speech. Careful use of dialogue can indicate so much about character; after all, we all make judgments about people in reality by their choice of words and how they express themselves and I like to capture that in my work.
Occasionally I find it necessary to be a little more explicit and I have made use of a narrator at times. Information can be given of course through another character who offers an opinion; I quite like that idea and it can be achieved quite subtly. I also find it interesting seeing how my characters react to others in the book. This is especially satisfying when you are writing about the same character from one book to another. We all change, things happen in our lives that skew our approach, feelings and even health and I like pondering over such things as I go about my own day to day life.
I find I live and breathe every aspect of the characters I am penning and I do hope much of this thought process is finally evident when you read the book. I am keen to balance the predictable with the unpredictable. I want my readers to ask questions especially as I deal with hard-hitting themes which scrape the underbelly of the society in which we live.
My books are mainly driven by plot and character so I spend much time removing any flaws I see in both, which after all is what makes some of our greatest literary novels and heroes so timeless. Shakespeare of course has given us so many complex characters that even when their behaviour is totally unacceptable, like Macbeth or Lear, we are still drawn to them and even find excuses for their actions. As we are all flawed we understand how our own fears, ambitions or sense of inadequacy can make us do and say things we should not. A weakness is a key aspect of character and is what makes any reader identify with a creation and makes them feel a character’s humanity, or lack of, perhaps.
As I look out of my study window I am watching the mountain turn from red to copper as the sun sets. It is approaching the shortest day; the vineyard is bare and silent; the optimism and growth which happened through spring and summer has gone. The wine is safely made and is doing its thing. I have to admit to enjoying a glass or two of last year’s vintage in front of the roaring log fire of an evening and very nice it is too. However, I may well appear to be in the room but there is no saying where my head is and with which character I am conversing.
I’ll keep you posted regarding how the novel is progressing next time.