Getting in Deep with your Characters

As any writer worth their salt knows, your characters are what make or break a good story. You can have the most fabulous plot, but if your characters don’t connect with your reader, you are up the proverbial creek. Now, I’ve been sitting on the first draft of a novel for some time now because something about it just wasn’t making me happy. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from beta readers and some very good constructive criticism, yet still, something was irking me. But, last Saturday, after a very productive and interesting workshop in a small conference room in Amsterdam, the irksome-ness was cured!

The workshop was held by Trish Nicholson, award winning Flash Fiction writer and author, and I was lucky enough to be invited by well-known Rotterdam blogger and author Valerie Poore. We met on a platform at the rather unfriendly time of 7:45 and made our way north to Amsterdam armed with a thermos of coffee and muesli bars. We’d decided to get to Amsterdam nice and early as neither of us has terribly good direction sense and so we both had to allow for ‘getting lost’ time. Good thing we did too…The venue was in a tiny alley, which at that time of day was completely deserted. No one in Amsterdam sets foot out of their front door before ten, it seems.

Now, I won’t go into great detail about what we learned in the workshop as that would be doing Ms Nicholson a disservice. She is a very skilled instructor and has a wealth of information and technique to share, and if you have the opportunity to follow one of her workshops, I highly recommend you do.
What I took away from it, though, was a keener insight into where and why I had become so frustrated with my manuscript. I realised that while my characters were all fairly solid and had an appropriate amount of depth, a few of them had made decisions or reacted to situations in a way that was contradictory or out of line with how I’d portrayed them. Suddenly, great big holes appeared in my story. This might sound a bit dramatic, but for me this was a fantastic moment. I finally knew what needed to be changed.

So, now the clouds have parted, here I am back at the keyboard rewriting the whole thing from a better perspective.


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