Monday, 17 September 2012

Getting the Skinny on A Hero

On Sunday morning I decided a face to face confrontation was in order.

Gratuitous Fassbender picture
My hero was being inconsistent.  He wasn't going in the direction I thought he should.  He wasn't being authentic.  The sure signs of a hero who is rudely eluding his author. That's IT thought I.  ENOUGH. It's time we had A Conversation.

Happily, there are lots of guides on t'interweb for helping people through this difficult interview. The ever helpful J.D.Wenzel provided me with his list of character interview questions, and I also stumbled across the Proust Questionnaire which is used as the basis for Vanity Fair's interactive Turbo Proust interview (compare your answer's to their celebrity guests).

Tweeting about questionnaires, lovely erotica author Cara Bristol wrote:  "I try to enhance the story, but not repeat it, yet not provide new stuff that it couldn't be gleaned from the story."

Great advice from Cara!  But here's the interesting thing: as I questioned my hero Devlin, it became apparent that some of the stuff gleaned from the story was just wrong.  I'd been trying to box Devlin into various actions which frankly, he wouldn't do.  Why?  Because they didn't fit with his values and his story.

So what has Devlin confided in me so far? 

Firstly, he's carrying around a lot of guilt and something of an overweening sense of responsibility.  Deep down he believes he precipitated his little brother's gangland death.  He resented his mother and was relieved when she died.  But his failure to protect and rescue his mother and his brother has stayed with him, as has his resentment at the father who left before he was born.

That tells me something important about the things which Devlin would find most testing and challenging and sets a whole chain of "what ifs" in progress.  Suddenly, I have a new First Plot Point to my story which sets Devlin on his path and in direct conflict with my heroine Tara.

What else? 

I also discovered that politically, he's quite conservative.  This goes back to my earlier post about whether your characters share your values.  I'm most definitely left wing liberal.  If I lived in the States, I'd no doubt be a Democrat or equivalent thereof.  Devlin isn't.  He's tough justice, family values and low taxes do-it-for-yourself.   That surprised me!

There's much more besides.  After the success of this enterprise, I'm looking forward to having the same stern chat with my heroine. Tara Donovan, you'd better get ready to open up!


Incy Black said...

What a great post, Meg. Timely reminder that stripped back to its basics, its the characters who drive the story.

Jessica Marcarelli said...

It's great to be reminded not to box your characters in. Too often, we treat the story like it's static when, in reality, it's completely organic.

That being said, "interviewing" my characters has never worked. I can't get my imagination flowing that way. I always write letters to them and wait for their reply...which makes me sound loopy, I know. ;)

Vision of Other Worlds

Meg McNulty said...

Thanks for your comments ladies!

Writing letters is definitely no loopier than interviewing. I was imagining myself as a counsellor with them on the couch.