Quillpen, inky fingers
One writer ponders ...
on words-smithing or being happily distracted from the task in hand
and on the wayward nature of her Muse
and on the wayward nature of her Muse
Characters taking charge!
Every author knows that getting the right voice for a character is a crucial part of creating an engaging story. It helps if the tone, the spark of personality, is there from the first moment of the relationship between the reader and the person on the page. It’s a little bit like catching someone’s eye across a crowded room and instantly knowing you’ll want to know more about - or avoid - that individual. That’s what keeps people turning the page.
So there’s a lot to be said for an engaging villain. I am dealing with a pretty nasty case in the third of the Pendennis books; Bartholomew Fenwick is, without doubt, a bad ‘un.
But can he be totally bad and still credible?
I had this discussion with friends over a ‘Book Club’ bash. Mixed reactions intrigued me. There were those who said that nobody is totally evil; there is usually a factor in their background that makes them that way or turned them from innocence to the dark. It is the psychological principle of Nature or Nurture.
The polar opposite reaction was that the escapism of literature allows the audience to really relish ‘interacting’ with someone who is the embodiment of foul, simply because they don’t do it in real life. Hopefully not anyway.
There was a feeling that perhaps something in the middle would be too wishy-washy; not worth reading. But everyone said they didn’t want to feel sorry for my villain because they had already made up their mind about him and were miffed that I’d let him get away with … well, what has he got away with? I won’t do spoilers!
So, what about when you character starts dictating the terms? Literally. The narrative just isn’t working then a little ‘voice’ says,
“That’s not right because I just wouldn’t do it!”
Mad? Yes it sounds that way to me too. But that is more or less what happened when I was planning A Cord of Three Strands. Until I had the right narrators absolutely nothing seemed to be working.
I can tell you exactly where I was when I actually said aloud,
“Well, I suppose Grace, Hester and Mary, that you could tell your own stories …again.”
(If you’re interested it was driving to Liskeard, on the A38 just after the Dobwalls junction, with the railway viaduct just coming into view!) From that moment the words began to tumble out, the ‘girls’, on the whole, happy to …. co-operate. No, it still sounds bonkers.
Then this week it happened again! There I was, bowling along nicely, the words on the computer screen recording the unfolding events at Pendennis in 1649 when the process was usurped by Daniel Edwards.
Readers of Exposed to All Villainies might remember that he was the Bideford lad who marched off to join the Queen’s Guard in the spring of 1644. Well, he’s back, having taken charge of an episode insurrection in A Cord of Three Strands when what I had originally planned was something quite different.
If you’ve read the ‘taster’ that opened this blog you might as well disregard the details. Dan has already managed to wangle a promotion and a pay rise out of me, with a rewrite of the first chapter of To Untie a Sealed Knot. And that’s without the spanner in the works from the results of some research at the Cornwall Record Office on Wednesday.
In the words of Homer Simpson, 'Doh!'
But Daniel seems like a nice chap, has hinted at a hidden agenda of which I thoroughly approve and he really doesn’t like Bartholomew Fenwick.
He also seems OK with the working title so for the time being, and as Mrs Muse doesn’t seem to be offering any alternatives, I might just to listen to his suggestions.
9/5/2016 03:41:52 am
Lovely article Steph - I think it was Iris Murdoch who, when an aspiring writer asked what one should do when characters 'take over', replied, 'You should slap their wrists, my dear...'
12/2/2022 06:49:16 pm
Nicce blog thanks for posting
Leave a Reply.
Author and Historian ... not necessarily in that order ...