Writing the character first


I spent the weekend brainstorming ideas for new books. Each one became more outrageous than the last, but I won’t say no to any of them because I don’t know when the writing muse will grace me with her presence again, and who am I to say what is too fantastic to write about.

When I was small, my favourite book was about a chair that sprouted wings on its legs, which always made me feel slightly queasy when I thought about the birth of said wings, but I liked the adventures the chair took the seated upon. I also liked a book about a girl ran away and lived in a small cottage decorated with sea shells and once about a teenage detective who seems to find mysteries to solve but only during summer.

Deciding what to write about is tough because every idea has merit. There are no truly terrible ideas. I keep all of my ideas filed neatly. Below is a screen shot of my computer. I have a folder of every story idea and they go into the well, to be divided into mode later. Within them are more ideas, broken down into more folders. The well needs to be first filled, then divided into book, film or TV folder.

The secret to keeping the well filled is to not listen to the voice that says, that this story has been told before. Of course, it has been told before, but it hasn’t been told by you.

It is claimed by many writers that there are only seven stories in the world, and each one is a variation on the theme. They are:

  • Overcoming the Monster.
  • Rags to Riches.
  • The Quest.
  • Voyage and Return.
  • Comedy.
  • Tragedy.
  • Rebirth.

Perhaps this is true, many also argue otherwise but what makes the story unique and readable is the character. This is why the character is so important in a story. The character informs the way the story unfolds and in what order.

I have a notebook of characters and sentences I had said or heard or imagined. Little snippets of life that when infused with a character, becomes an individual ready to tell me their story. Sure, that story isn’t new but is any story new? We all fall in love, but your meeting your beloved isn’t like mine or the lady next door or the man on the bus. The story is falling in love, the uniqueness comes from the people who fell.

No characters are the same in fiction or life. We are all shaped and formed by our experiences, geography, and choices, thus no one shares a parallel life with another. While the theme of the story might be the same, the characters are not.

The characters are everything, so when I decide what I will write next, I will choose the character that needs me to speak for them. The character who has something to say and who wants something more than the others that float in my crown chakra.

And if a writer can create a personality for a chair with wings, then anything is possible.

Keep writing.