Saturday, November 15, 2008

How do you make your POV characters interesting?

One school, popular in Space Opera, does not even try. You know, huge sprawling stories set over ten volumes with seventy-three POV characters, all of whom start to blur so you have to put a glossary of who’s who at the front. These sell really well so they are a viable commercial proposition if that’s what you want to do.

But suppose that you want to focus on a couple of characters and bring them alive? OK, the easy answer is that you give them personalities. The difficulty is in the execution. One tip is that real people, the interesting ones anyway, are a mass of illogical contradictions and so are interesting fictional characters.

Take some fictional detectives. Inspector Morse likes real ales and classical music. Sherlock Holmes, the man of logic, is a dope fiend and violinist. Miss Marple is a dotty, little old lady with a ruthlessly logical criminal mind while Hercule Poirot has too many idiosyncrasies to count. Caroline Graham, who wrote the Midsomer Murders, hit upon the wonderful idea of turning all this on its head. She made the detective boringly normal – middle-aged, sane, married to same woman’s institute wife all his life, one ordinary daughter – and thus unusual in a genre of tortured policeman with bad social lives - but gave the criminals wonderful and weird eccentricities.

In short, be original.

I shall have more to say on this subject in my next blog. See you on Saturday.



Louise Marley said...

Is that why I can't read space opera? Now I know!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

George RR Martin had a large number of PVs in his Fire & Ice series, but he heralded each PV change by naming the chapter after the person and telling that scene from only that PV. I had my favorites.

The dwarf had to be the most interesting person in the series, with all his disadvantages. Next came Arya, the second daughter. I felt like shaking Sansa, the elder daughter and wasn't interested in her mother, until her throat was cut and she underwent a metamorphosis. Also the character of James (?spelling), until he suffered and his hand was chopped off, I didn't connect with him.

I guess I like tortured characters who have to battle great odds. :->

Cheers, Rowena

Dave Freer said...

"Is that why I can't read space opera?"

You know... this is why I get very twitchy about putting stereotype labels on things. Some genres and sub-genres are very narrow. Others are broad churches. Have a quick look on wikipedia at 'space opera' - long odds that you find at least one author whose work you love. There are some cases where character development is brilliant. As 'space opera' ranges from some of Asaro's work, or Brin, to Vance it's really something that requires more than a general I love/hate or you're throwing a lot of babies out with a bit of bathwater. It's like saying 'I can't read romance.'

Dave Freer said...

By the way -I think the reason I am twitchy about this specifically is that someone has tagged 'SLOWTRAIN' as space opera. Well, so many things cross subgenre lines!