Friday, February 13, 2009

Character in Search of a Plot.

Say hi to my friend, author Helen Kitson

I’m definitely a character-led writer. The characters generally come to me far more easily than the plot, but if I’m lucky the characters tell me the story they want me to write. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, and I still have one character desperately in search of a plot.

I know this girl very well. I see her sitting on a park bench in the Tuileries garden in Paris. Her legs are crossed, her gaze fixed to the book she’s reading (she likes the classics and is a big Thomas Hardy fan). Her hair is of that shade euphemistically called strawberry-blonde. She is not beautiful – her teeth stick out slightly and she is clearly someone not comfortable in her own skin. Her name (which she hates) is Angela.

But why is she there? She is alone, on a beautiful day in a beautiful city, but she looks unhappy. What brought her here and why does she look so sad? I’ve tried to write this girl’s story numerous times, but she refuses to yield it up to me, and so she sits there still, alone, silent, waiting for me to find the key to unlock her mystery.

Unlike some readers, I don’t require people in books to be ‘likeable’. Indeed, many of my favourite fictional characters are fairly unpleasant. What matters to me is not that I care about the characters, but that I should find them interesting. After all, many of the celebrities whose personal lives fill so many miles of magazine and newspaper pages are not particularly likeable people. What is it about them that grips our interest? In some cases, it’s the simple fascination of being unable to pull your gaze from a train wreck. In other cases, it’s a question of that nebulous quality, charisma.

Why does my redhead refuse to have her story told? I often think she’ll be sitting on that park bench until the end of time, an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile on her face, like a frozen tableau that refuses to come to life.



  1. What an awesome way to describe your intro to a new character. I'm hook and there isn't any storyline yet.

  2. I feel the same way, Robin. That's why I posted Helen's blog here. I knew I needed to share it. I'm fascinated by the young lady and definitely want to learn more.

  3. Not intending to question the characterization of your character but it seems to me if... "She is not beautiful – her teeth stick out slightly and she is clearly someone not comfortable in her own skin. Her name (which she hates) is Angela."

    Then, Angela is awaiting a complete personal makeover including a face and name change. It is up to you to find out how that change affects the person she really is.

    If that story is as well written and thought provoking as this post then you will be a success.

  4. Interesting concept, Marty. I think I saw a television series use that premise. Can't remember if it was CSI or a movie of the week. It couldn't have been that good if I can't remember. But you're right, it would be interesting to follow up on such a true life story.

  5. I wish my characters came to me like that. I'm probably the exact opposite, with my plots unravelling while I struggle with character sketches.

  6. I wish I could say I'm consistent. Generally, my stories begin with a question. What if...? Then I begin to see my characters. I can see the story unfold in my head for up to a year. Mainly, because I'm already involved in a WIP and I know I shouldn't leave it to start something else. When the time is right, I seem to know it.


Thank you for visiting my blog. Please come in and sit for while. We will talk about writing. We will share our dreams. Then I will serve tea and cookies. Home made and Gluten Free.