Sunday, 22 February 2015

Writing - People identify with literary characters.

When I began the task of creating Patrick A Steele I had the sort of character I wanted directing the action in my books in mind. 

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The guy had to have the physical prowess of a James Bond tinged with Jet Li in a fight. He would have a liking for fast cars and the finer things in life but unlike bond he would be a gentleman with the ladies, mostly. However, the one thing that you can never know until a few books have sold and you've had some feedback is whether your audience will engage with the one you've created.

Author Will Self suggests that readers shouldn't trust these fictional characters and I understand why he suggests that this is the case. If you consider the one you've created there is always an attempt to imbue a degree of realism so that readers can identify with them. So if the reader does follow your direction then they shouldn't be surprised when that character begins to stalk the darker parts of the mind.

The engagement we try and create is an effort to encourage the growth of an audience but if you take any creative process there is a limit as to the breadth of the audience. Creativity is intensely subjective so finding like minded people who see where your going with what you produce is a lottery. If we were all the same tastes would be similar and creativity would die. As an example consider L S Lowry and David Hockney.

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I know people who love Lowry and others that think his daubs are laughable and others who love Hockney's work.

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You will make your own mind up whether or not you like the work and that is the case with the characters we create and set on their developmental road. The question is why is this the case? I have a theory!
If you consider the human mind and how complex it is, trying to predict how something is going to be acceptable or not is a bit of a waste of time. If you take the development of a baby much of their earliest experiences oscillate between the two extremes of pain and pleasure or probably better described as need and satisfaction. As we grow older those basic needs are tempered by patience or an understanding that we will receive what we need in the fullness of time. Then when we are fully self-sustaining many other influences come to bear on the things we require and how we go about obtaining the same. If writers create a character that provides the reader with echoes of their own development but perhaps with slightly more favourable outcomes then they are likely to be more attractive and the reader will be hooked.

As I said before the chances of that happening we cannot begin to even estimate and thank goodness for that because we are encouraged to keep trying. On the positive side is the fact that a complex character has more to offer the reader than something that is rather simplistic. 

Will Self reports on characters that as a young writer he,
'made them caricatures, stereotypes or hieratic figures - I denied them the oxygen of believable dialogue, and the nourishment of a credible inner life.'
but with middle-age he expressed a different view,
'People also need people who manifest all their own torturous confusions'

Life is not simple and it can be tortuous even for the most fortunate of us that is why Steele is the complex human being he is. In the seven novels thus far his background, experiences as a youth and attitudes he has developed as a result are with him always. The first novel 'I Have To Get It Right' tells us something of his background but there is more in 'Inceptus' for the reader who is drawn to the character. I believe that it is important to maintain the reader's contact with the person who is your lead so that their perception of the man is constant.
Have a dip into Steele and see what you think. Extracts can be found on and where if you are hooked you can buy for ereaders or paperback copies.