Characters: Mysterious, quirky, interesting, likeable?

My tome of choice this week in terms of reading material has been the rather brilliant Sweet Caress by William Boyd, who I mentioned the other week when I was chatting about writing out of sync. For fans of his previous work, especially Any Human Heart and The New Confessions (two of my particular favourites), I thoroughly recommend it.

In fact, if I were to describe it, I might say it was… sprawling, compelling, nostalgic, intriguing.

photoI’ve borrowed this quick-fire description technique from the novel and I must say, I’m quite taken with it as a fast, candid and precise way of defining characters. It’s a great idea for writing and, well, for having fun with, as the characters do in the book. Indeed, one of them – a society photographer – believes any person can be summed up in just four adjectives, and he and his niece – the central character Amory Clay – use it as a game to distract themselves when the snapping is slow of an evening.

It’s a simple way of getting to grips with the core of a character in my opinion – a highly resourceful way to sketch out the traits you want your to portray when writing. Sometimes I think we can get bogged down in drawing out every last detail when it comes to creating characters. Yes, we need to know them inside out, but this is a good way to start and one I’ll be using as a cornerstone for my own fictional creations. It’ll also show how well you really know them, I think, if you choose your adjectives, then write your story and then go back to your description. Does it still fit…?

Meanwhile, in lieu of actually using it as a writing technique, why not think of someone you know and see what pops into your head…

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