Characters in a book begin as an outline concept in the writer’s mind. They rarely have form or features, so to connect with readers they must evolve from these ‘silhouettes’ into engaging people.
How does a writer develop a fictional character who is as fascinating as a real person? By giving the character all the dispositions of real life, the bad as well as the good. Not every ‘good’ character is a superhero. Far from it.
When I began writing the Maze series – in fact before I even began writing – I drew up a list of characteristics for my main characters. To begin with these were mainly physical: height, weight, hear and eye colour. Then I started on interesting characteristics: speech including tempo, language, etc; gestures, habits. This seemed like a good start. But what it didn’t do was to give a deeper insight into the ethical basis of the character.
Over the intervening years I have developed a list of ten questions for each of my characters. Some I have revealed as their stories have developed. Some are yet to be revealed! Here are the questions.
(clue: the list starts with three easily recognisable ones for Maze Investigations readers)
- What is the one word that defines you?
- Did you have a happy childhood and if not, why not?
- How have past and present relationships affected you?
- What are the best and worst experiences in your life so far?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What secret are you hiding?
- What keeps you awake at night?
- What is the worst thing you are prepared to do?
- What is your prevailing obsession?
- How far would you go to achieve your most important ambition?
The next Maze book – ‘The Soldier’ – will reveal more answers to some of these questions.