It’s been a good writing day today. I’ve been working through sections of my Mary Rose play asking questions of each scene. For example, what’s the point of this? Who is leading the action? Who is making a decision?
That’s quite difficult to do – the first time I did it for a piece of writing I nearly cried as I couldn’t answer myself. Now I know the questions are coming, I am ruthless about cutting as I write, so theoretically the answers should come quicker.
But I was surprised today to find that the central story has moved to a secondary character, and not the character I thought it belonged too. So this means a whole night of pondering if I like this development, if I need to change it back, if I need to develop this further.
I think that this has happened because I’ve ignored my number one rule of having a tight plot structure before I started. Rules were meant to be broken right?
These characters though, they’re tricky.
I learnt today that two of them are distant cousins. I hadn’t seen that coming, but it explains their bickering. I also learnt my protagonist has a hobby that I hadn’t dreamt of, and my antagonist can make me cry. I think this means they’re working well.
How should you go about checking out that your characters work?
There’s no simple fix, and there’s also a million articles and blogs online that’ll offer advice.
Here are a couple of my check points which I’ve picked up from all over the internet, workshops and my own head:
- Do they speak with their own words and pattern?
(As in, they don’ all sound the same)
- Do they have a life before and after the play?
(Working out what they do at other times of the day gives you a better idea of who they are)
- What would have happened to them today if this plot hadn’t dropped on top of them?
(Are they the type of person who will create drama, or will drama find them?)
- What do they value?
(Do they hang out with people who tell the truth, or have money, or . . . what?)
- How do they respond to people who are not like them?
(I forgive some people who annoy me, others I don’t. It’s to do with whether they ft into my value systems.)
- Is their best friend more interesting than them?
(I always felt the Harry Potter books would have been even better as a Hermione Granger or Ron Weasley series)
- What happens if their sex is flipped, are they still believable?
(This is a super technique to see if you’re writing stereotypical tosh. Trust me, it works. Make females male, and males female. Ouch.)
- And finally, can their name change?
(If it can’t, if they have to be that name, I know my job is done.)
Let me know if these are useful to you! And, once again, thank you Arts Council for making this happen!