In common with most fiction my book contains characters. No surprise there really. Some of them are men, some of them women and they range in age from 13 to 50. Some of them are good and some of them are bad. I’m not going to go into detail about all of them, but each has their own personality and quirks as you would expect.
Putting the ‘bit part’ characters aside and dealing with the main characters for the moment, this means that when I’m writing I have to try to put myself in the bodies (and minds) of each of the characters, how they act and how they speak. In the case of Pete (48 years old) that’s not too difficult, while his character is older than me there’s sufficient closeness to accurately gauge how he would talk, although he tends to speak rather oldy worldy which is something I don’t do. Some people would describe him as ‘stiff’ I guess, but that’s by design rather than anything else.
By contrast Laura (22) is obviously a woman. She tends to be on the cheeky side, is quick-witted and eager to give an encouraging word but doesn’t suffer fools gladly, tough when she needs to be and soft when occasion demands. Sam (the heroine of our story) and Alex are quite alike in many ways which makes life easier, but the problem with them is they’re both 13 years old. Which I’m not.
What this means is that I have to try to climb inside the minds of a vast array of people and sometimes it isn’t that easy. As an example in the second book Laura loses her temper. Now Laura rarely loses her temper (I know because I’m her). Cool, calculating and stubborn she doesn’t usually let people rile her, but for the sake of the story she needs to let go and that was quite difficult to write, not because I don’t lose my temper (I do), but rather because I’m not a woman and women tend to lose their temper in a different way, use different words and have different reactions, with men it tends to be more anger but in my experience women tend to be more emotional (and yes, before anyone points it out I know that anger is an emotion, but you get the point). Likewise when Sam and Alex are talking I need to have a conversation as a 13-year-old not me, and that can be quite tricky.
When I sit down to write I’ll often be doing a section of dialogue between two of the characters, and while I’m in the ‘flow’ of that character will go on and write another section of dialogue that will appear later, simply because climbing in and out of different skins is sometimes challenging, especially if it’s a long piece of dialogue. Switching from a 13-year-old girl to a 48-year-old man is sometimes easier said than done and I sometimes find that bits of one character have ‘leaked’ into another, and that’s never good. Sometimes I pick this up myself and other times my wife will point it out.
I don’t think there’s any particular ‘method’ of changing characters, it seems to get easier with time as you develop the characters (and the more you write), but even so it can be a difficult – especially at the start of a book. You might have a detailed idea of what the character is like but it still takes time to get into gear. After all no-one wants a 13-year-old girl who talks like a 48-year-old fuddy duddy.
Then again, it might be just me that has this problem…….
As an aside, congratulationt to Martyn. He knows who he is and has been trying to guess for a couple of weeks what my hobby is so I gave him the opportunity to ask questions daily. He did eventually get it on Thursday, but after getting shot of some of the obvious ones (gaming, painting, pottery, web site design etc) here of some of the classic ‘hobbies’ he suggested I did
Microprocessor design (as a hobby? Seriously?)
Shopping Centre design (his mind obviously works in a strange way)
Lightbulb design (I don’t know what to even make of this one)
I’m not sure if I should take these as a compliment. Still, he got there in the end and we’ve had a laugh in the process, and at the end of the day that’s what’s important.