Thursday, June 18, 2009

Imagination to Ink : Characters – Part One

Let’s talk about characters.
Sometimes ideas can come in the guise of characters. Like I said before, J.K.Rowling ‘met’ Harry Potter in a train journey. And the rest is history!
Characters play a very important role in a book. There is usually a central character or the ‘protagonist’ and there is the ‘antagonist’. The ‘good characters’ pitched against the ‘bad character’. And there are also the supporting characters, some minor but others important enough to add to the story.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that characterization can make or break a book! Strong characterization can take the novel to great heights and weak characterization could prove fatal for the story. A well-formed, unique central character is like the engine of a train, which leads other characters smoothly on the tracks of the story!
But where do these characters come from? Specially the main central character? From your imagination, for sure, but sometimes also from your day-to-day interactions with people. Every day you meet several people. Some are boring, some interesting, but some may be distinguished enough to create an impact. Perhaps not the whole personality, but a particular mannerism, a trait, stays with you. This trait and mannerism may automatically concretize into a solid character or inspire a completely novel character.
A small warning : It is unadvisable to lift a whole character straight out of reality. You cannot discard the possibility that that person may object strongly to the idea of being ‘exposed’ in a book! And anyway, a good character is usually a combination of qualities ‘borrowed’ from different human beings.
Remember, that characters have to be realistic, believable and interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention. But what is most important is that, first and foremost, you have to believe in the character yourself. You have to live with the character, get to know his past, present and future so well, that he grows with you.
Here’s a simple, but interesting exercise :
Some articles are strewn in a room. There’s a dog’s leash on the floor, a hand-drawn framed sketch of a group of monkeys around a tea-table on the wall, fresh flowers in a vase, an upturned wastepaper basket, and a half-finished plate of sandwich on the table where a computer is on, with the picture of a cartoon on the screen. Try to imagine who must be occupying this room. Immediately, a vague picture of a person must be materializing before your eyes. An image must be forming in your mind. Write down every thing you can visualize about this character and send me your results.
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