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the voices in your head: Creating your characters

A while ago I sent a friend of mine this message and today, when someone asked me to give them some pointers on characters, I remembered writing this out and thought it was a place to start.

Characters are central to the story and I go as far to say they are everything because it's very tough to craft a story without understanding who the protagonist is, what makes them tick and why we're telling their story in the first place. For instance, if we talk about a cat who went in search of food and in the process made friends with an unlikely ally- the puppy next door, we will at some point have to understand the cat's motivations because cats don't really like dogs. So why does the cat decide to befriend his worst nemesis? Is it because there's no food or that he hasn't eaten in a while. If so, does that mean he's a stray or belongs to a family who's forgotten him, or left the trapdoor locked by mistake, so on and so forth. You might never bring up the cat's family, but if you don't know the cat well enough, you'll never be able to describe how he reacts when he has to kill his first rat because unbeknownst to you he might have been feed Whiskas all his life.

You need to get to know the people you're working with because really, when you're writing a novel, your characters are your colleagues, friends and loudest voices in your head. You cannot tame them- because they can often go rogue on you, if you don't know their deepest desires. In fact, you might not even know where the story is going but your close relationship with the character means they'll guide you out of a plot hole. For instance, I didn't know who Malvika was going to be for a long time. I didn't know if she'd ever help Shui or trust her completely. What made Ruki the one who took sides with Anya and not Malvika? These decisions cannot be arbitrary because the reader will sniff out your ignorance before they finish the sentence. I spend some time on character arcs during my workshops and one-on-one mentorships but even before that I have my writers fill out detailed graphic organisers.

So before you begin writing, try spending some time with your characters. Here are three ways to say hello.

What is your characters full name? (This will make you question their heritage and ancestry)

Do they like their name?

Where do they live now and where were they born? (If these two questions have different answers, then you have an entire journey to unravel before you go further. How lucky are you?!)

I hope this helped. See you soon!

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