I mean, let's mull over the author's voice. I know, you're asking, what the hell is that? Well, take these bloggy things for example. If someone read this blog - having read my previous blogs - they'd know it was my fabulous work because of my voice, which consists of a number of exceptionally well thought-out indicators: 1) I meander all over the damned place - so I've been told anyway; 2) Toady does a lot of jabbering from behind me, but when I turn round he's never there - how weird is that? There's a name for things that appear in the corner of your eye - they call them shadow people - I see a lot of them, and sometimes have conversations with them, invite them for tea, and...
Anyway, enough about my little idiosyncracies. So, you can see, some authors have a voice you can spot from a thousand other authors. Not all authors have got a unique voice though! If you read ten anonymous chapters from ten of your favourite authors all writing about the same thing, would you be able to say, "That's Stephen King" or "That's JRR Tolkein"? If you're an author, you gotta find your voice, and don't come looking round hereabouts 'cause I ain't stumbled over any strange sounding voices.
So, apart from a name, how else can we make a character different from other characters. Hey up, Toady's made a list!
'Is it a long list, Toady?'
'Long lists are the only good lists, boss.'
'If you say so. Go on then, tell us what's on your list?'
'I haven't had time to put them in order of importance, boss.'
'Be reckless, do it anyway.'
'You got it.'
Differentiate your characters by one or more of:
The way they do things;
What drives them (motivations);
Provide an image, so that readers can visualise;
Differentiate even minor characters;
Flaws, strengths and weaknesses;
Use of similes and metaphors;
Psychologica traits: (Psychotic: aggressive, impulsive, cold, unempathetic, creative, anti-social, impersonal, egocentric, tough-minded. Neurotic: anxious, angry, guilty, depressed, easily stressed, interprets ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult, self-conscious, shy, trouble controlling urges, phobias);
Characters describe themselves;
Create an image of one person, but hint at another inside;
Don't infodump - build up a character's personality slowly;
Physical traits: Height, weight, colouring, features; sight, smell, hair, voice, dialect;
Social traits: Beliefs and attitudes.
Have I missed anything?
In 'His Wrath is Come' I created a character called Lola Laveque - See what you think:
Constable Lola Laveque was a short rotund black woman of indeterminate age who wore a permanent smile on her face. He’d caught her eating some strange food out of a plastic container.
‘You wanted to see me?’ he said.
‘And you are?’
‘From the MIT?’
‘Okay, take a seat.’
He looked around but there was nowhere to sit. ‘Where?’
‘People usually perch on the corner of the desk.’
‘Do you want to share my ackee and saltfish?’ she said thrusting the fishy dish under his nose.
He hated fish. ‘Thank you, but I’ve just had lunch.’
‘Don’t know what you’re missing.’
‘Chief Kirby said that you’d found something?’
‘I’m always finding one thing or another in here.’
‘A pattern?’ He was beginning to wonder if he’d stumbled into the twilight zone. The tiny office boasted a desk, a computer, a filing cabinet, a chair, and stacks of files on every surface.
Also, I had Lola using malapropisms - that is misusing similar sounding words - i.e. instead of commendation > combination; instead of presentation > impersonation. And she also practised Hiatian vodou. So, you can see that I gradually created a 3-dimensional person, and people have already asked whether she'll be included in the next book in the series.
Oh, the other thing - before I shillyshally back to my writing - is do you know why I used Lucy Van Pelt in the picture? Give yourself a high-five if you do!