Saturday, August 14, 2010
Inspiration and character traps
As you write more books, you need to be aware that your characters not only have to be different from each other but they have to be different from previous characters. They need to live and breathe. And readers if they glom on to an author may read a number of her books in quick succession. If your heroine always has silver eyes or black hair, someone may notice and be pulled out of the book.
You can even think that you have built up this great and unique backstory, only to find yourself falling into the same trap. This is particularly true if you tend to write the same sort of core story. Or if you are exploring a similar theme to another story of yours.
I speak from experience here as some of the reason for the huge rewrites was that I gave into tempatation and reused hero fodder. Backstories were different but the characters were 2-d until I did a lot of remedial work. Your characters need to be unique. One way to do it is to think -- why are they different from my other heroes? What are they passionate about? How does that passion different from my other hero? What are their strongly held opinions? What won't they discuss? What truth do they hold dear that is different? How does their accent differ? Why is this actor not going to be playing himself but another role? Why is the reader really going to identify with this character? Why if a reader does glom on to your books, is this character going to stand out?
The problems with character traps is one of the reasons why it becomes progressively harder to write in a given genre. You pick the easy fruit and then suddenly you have to stretch. The learning to stretch is important. It is about going back to the basics and making sure that each one is unique.