I was talking about the ‘solidness’ of characters the other day with Joao and Lisa. We were talking about how women in comicbooks are so often just side-kicks or sexual fantasies and little more than that.
It got me thinking about my own work, in prose rather than comics.
Characters in novels
There’s a character in my novel called Ryan. He’s basically just a voice because he has no personality and no physical description. Not ONE description of him appears anywhere throughout the 68,000 words.
This, understandably, has been bothering me for a while. I never sat down to do a character plan for him. I don’t do character plans for anyone.
I do feel though that as an aspect of a novel, a novel with only four characters, he’s fairly weak.
Enter: a typewriter called a Quiet-Riter
You might have heard me ranting about how I now own 16.5 pounds of cast-iron awesome, otherwise known as a Remington Quiet-Riter typewriter. I’d always wanted a typewriter because they’re machines that were made purely for writing and I figured sitting at them would be a little like how gyms affect people psychologically – they’re at the gym, they exercise for this amount of time, they go home. Done and dusted.
Typewriters have no internet. Yes, I know I could turn off the internet but I can also just turn it back on.
Surprisingly, since I came into the possession of the typewriter, I’ve been writing more. It just goes to show that when I eliminate all distraction, I work because there’s nothing else I can possibly do.
This pure single-mindedness is a lovely feeling to have.
What does this have to do with your barely-sketched character called Ryan?
So I was redrafting chapter one. It’s the most heavily edited chapter of the entire book. The typewriter doesn’t have the QWERTY keyboard that I’d be used to here in Ireland – it has a French-style one, an AZERTY. It also doesn’t have the number 1 or an exclamation mark, and it DOES have a load of really interesting symbols that are used in French such as the accent grave (`), the accent circonflexe (ˆ) and the accent tréma (¨ dieresis or umlaut).
I found myself trying to think of a reason to use these symbols because it was very exciting. I began by renaming Ryan as Maël just so that I could use the tréma. Then I started writing a scene where he was the main character instead of the narrator.
Then I kept writing.
I’m not saying that Maël is now a fully-formed character in his own right, but I am saying that he has more depth and realistic idiosyncrasy about him than he did before I got the typewriter.
It goes to show that ideas and growth can come from the smallest of things, and you really should keep your eyes open at all times. You never know when you might get that old excited feeling about your work in progress back.