Character Development: A guest post by Craig Hallam!


This week I am pleased to host author Craig Hallam as he writes about Character Development. I was first introduced to his work on his short story anthology Not before Bed. His debut novel Greaveburn will be coming out August 20.

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I don’t know about you, but I tend to write the kind of characters that I also like to read. That’s how I get excited about a project. It’s like getting psyched up to see a movie you’ve been waiting for. So, since we’re talking about writing characters, it might be helpful if I tell you what my favourite books are, right? Here goes:

Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast

Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club

Nick Horby’s High Fidelity

I hope that helps.  But if not, then basically I like my heroes to not really be heroes at all. And that’s the kind of philosophy I put into my own writing. You can sum it up with the old adage “No-one’s perfect”. When I think about my characters, what they’re going to do, who they’ll meet, I don’t think about how their virtues will carry them through to a positive conclusion. Rather, I think about what makes them tick, what are their character flaws, and how does that effect their drives and desires and so how they act when they come across others. Because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s how the world works. It’s our quirks that drive us. And I reckon that’s how you make an interesting and well-rounded character, too.

Let’s do a case study (I know, I’m all about the fun).

Let’s call this character Boris. Now, Boris is from a working class family, but he’s done pretty good for himself with a little hard work and a whole lot of luck. He has a steady job with decent wages. He’s managed to bag himself a great girlfriend. Boris would like to be a painter.

Sounds fine, right? But it’s boring. And Boris will be boring in everything he does. So let’s give him some flaws.

He’s a dreamer, who sometimes forgets that the real world exists. Sometimes, he’d rather sit and paint the world than take part in it. His sense of humour is dry enough that no one really knows when he’s joking. And his parents splitting up when he was younger and the subsequent fallout has left him with a desire to be always independent, and never get too close to anyone. It’s made him cynical in a lot of ways and his sense of humour feeds on that.

Yowza. Boris is pretty interesting now, right? And it’s the flaws that make him that way. His relationship with his girlfriend could be strained because he doesn’t want to let her too close to him just to leave him alone (like what happened to his parents). He uses that dry sense of humour and vivacious imagination to keep people at arm’s length. His paintings become his world, and he would be almost reclusive of it weren’t for his girlfriend’s influence.

Can you see hoe the character’s flaws are what create the plot. All we have to do is have Boris’ girlfriend leave him, and you’ve got yourself the start of a good novel!

When I was writing the character of Abrasia for Greaveburn, I knew that she would be the heroine (or protagonist if you prefer that), that she would be in dire straits, and that it would be through her that the reader saw the incredibly dark and dangerous world that she was trapped in. But to leave it at that would make her one dimensional; the typical damsel in distress. Who wants to read that? I certainly don’t. She’s a sixteen year old girl in dire peril with no hope of survival. And so, understandably, Abrasia can be a little…spikey sometimes. She can also be ruthless and spiteful. She has to be in order to stay alive. But she also happens to be quite sensitive when she needs to be. That all amounts to a lot of character in the little spitfire.

And so, dear friends, readers and writers alike, that’s the best advice I can give to you today. In order to make your characters truly lifelike, and help your reader to engage with them, make sure they have flaws just like we do. It doesn’t mean they won’t be likeable. No-one’s perfect.

Thanks for reading.

Greaveburn hits the shelves (both virtual and corporeal) in most major book retailers on August 20th from Inspired Quill Publishing.

A hero murdered.

A girl alone.

A city of villains.

From the crumbling Belfry to the Citadel’s stained-glass eye, across acres of cobbled streets and knotted alleyways that never see daylight, Greaveburn is a city with darkness at its core. Gothic spires battle for height, overlapping each other until the skyline is a jagged mass of thorns.

Archduke Choler sits on the throne, his black-sealed letters foretell death for the person named inside. Abrasia, the rightful heir, lives as a recluse in order to stay alive. With her father murdered and her only ally lost, Abrasia is alone in a city where the crooked Palace Guard, a scientist’s assistant that is more beast than man, and a duo of body snatchers are all on her list of enemies.

Under the cobbled streets lurk the Broken Folk, deformed rebels led by the hideously scarred Darrant, a man who once swore to protect the city. And in a darkened laboratory, the devious Professor Loosestrife builds a contraption known only as The Womb.

With Greaveburn being torn apart around her, can Abrasia avenge her father’s murder before the Archduke’s letter spells her doom.

Contact Craig

eMail: craighallam@live.vom

Twitter: @craighallam84

Blog: http://craighallam.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CraigHallamAuthor

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One response to this post.

  1. That was another excellent post today. You make it look so easy. Thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a wonderful day!

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