(Rowena is away from her computer, but she left this for us. Enjoy!)
It always comes back to characterisation, for me. Whether it is a movie or a book, I have to care about the people, otherwise why would I keep reading/watching? If a book is really memorable, I find myself thinking about the characters for days afterwards.
I’ve always loved the artwork of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and when the British TV series came out, I looked forward to watching it with some reservations. I loved it.
It wasn’t historically accurate, but this didn’t worry me because I think it distilled the passion and the excitement of being involved in an art movement. Having lived as a starving artist in Melbourne, I can relate to this.
Instead of staid, stiff Victorians, the brotherhood came alive as young men, their lives full of passion, rivalry and self doubt. Characterisation again!
The web contains lots of useful tips on writing craft, here’s an article on characterisation that covers the nuts and bolts. Top 10 Questions for Creating Believable Characters, by Ginny Wiehardt.
Richard Harland has written 145 pages on the craft of writing with a whole section on characterisation.
And here, from the Writing Room, there’s an article on How to Write Great Characters.
What made the TV series about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood come to life for me was their character flaws. They were whole people. They made mistakes, they embarrassed themselves, they cared passionately, they failed to see through things and they tried to repair mistakes – they were human.
Whenever I run a workshop on characterisation I cover all the usual things. Then I ask the attendees to come up with two words to describe their character. The words have to be conflicting. So we end up with a Cynical-Romantic, or a Faithless-Priest. Once you distill your character into two conflicting words, you have the core of their inner conflict.
And just to show how important characterisation is:
Have you seen any movies or read any books recently, where the characters lived on for you afterwards?