Making Characters Real in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Happy Easter to those who, like me, celebrate it. Good to have some proper Easter weather too – lovely, sunny and warm in the UK right now.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

15th April 2022 – Good Friday – CFT
Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. I visited another church this morning for a lovely Good Friday service. I had a lovely walk of a couple of miles each way and I was especially grateful for the cup of tea on offer when I got to the church! It was needed!

My usual church has all of its Easter events on Easter Sunday so it starts mournfully and then ends in celebration. It is a lovely service but I like to get to a service on Good Friday when I can. On my walk down, I came across a little bridge and someone had put up a small bin with sticks in it. They’d marked the bin “Pooh Sticks” so someone is a Winnie the Pooh fan – made me smile as I saw it. (No sign of Eeyore or Tigger before you ask).

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-34-21 Making Characters Real In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I hope you find my Making Characters Real In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today useful. I talk about why characters have to resonate with readers for their stories to be believable (and that’s still true even for the most fantastical of settings). I look at motivation and realism too. (Wish me luck for when I get to Q in this series! It is approaching rapidly!).

Making Characters Real In Fiction

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Lady had a fabulous play “date” with her gentleman friend who is a gorgeous tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd this morning. She usually prefers to play with her girlie dog friends but this very nice lad is a rare exception for the boys. Good to see them both running around at full pelt and having a wonderful time.

Writing wise, I am busy getting workshop material ready. Love this (and indeed presenting it later on). As with my flash work where I have my Ideal Reader in mind all the time, here I am thinking of what my audience is going to find useful. Putting yourself in your readers’/listeners’ shoes is a good idea, always. It helps cut any tendency to waffle for a start!

I also have in mind what I’d find useful from a workshop if I was going to it as a delegate. That perspective again helps me tailor my material in the right way. Later, I will record my material and play it back via Zoom. That is a great way of highlighting any issues – such as am I speaking too fast? Am I speaking clearly enough and so on? I’ve also found it triggers ideas for material to add in as I literally listen to what I’ve said and spot gaps which I then fill. It’s also great practice at writing and presenting non-fiction of course so win-win!

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Not a bad day. Looked grotty first thing, then brightened up. This could often apply to me first thing in the morning just after I’ve had my first cup of tea for the day!

Looking forward to sharing my Making Characters Real In Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Good Friday. Hope you will find it useful.

My author newsletter goes out on the first of the month and is packed with tips, news, prompts etc so if you would like to sign up do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

The next couple of months will be busy with workshops – one in May in London and the other as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick.

Did I ever anticipate running workshops one day when I started going to writing events etc? Not a bit of it but I am thrilled with how things have worked out here and ironically the pandemic helped. Zoom was my way in to workshops as it made certain things possible. I hope to do much more of this kind of thing.

I’ve taken the long view that I will see where my writing journey takes me. It has thrown up some interesting things which I hope to develop further. I mean I hadn’t anticipated being a flash fiction writer either when I started out and that has worked out well! Being open is important.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

15th April 2022 – Good Friday
Happy Easter to those who, like me, commemorate it (today, a sad day) and celebrate it (Easter Sunday, a joyful day). I once wrote a flash piece for Christian Writer magazine (the journal of the Association of Christian Writers) called The Craftsman. It focused on the carpenter who made Jesus’s cross.

What mattered for that story and indeed for any I write is that I know where my focus is – for this example, I had my carpenter smooth the wood down as much as he could. He couldn’t help in any other way so he did that. So my focus here was on my carpenter’s wish to help and to figure out a small way in which he could feel he had done that.

My focus for my current story on Friday Flash Fiction comes from a prompt. It was from a random scenario generator (yes really!) and the scenario that came out was finding a piece of paper stuck in a chest of drawers. And this is what I did with that prompt. Hope you enjoy my A Timely Reveal and a huge thanks to those who have commented on this one already.
Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-35-32 A Timely Reveal by Allison Symes

I don’t always name my characters in my flash stories. One reason for this is that, with my darker tales, keeping something as an “it” is more scary than naming “it”. But with other tales, the name of the character isn’t so important to the story. What matters is what the character does.

Where I do use a name then see that as important information. I’m nearly always using a name to convey social status, sometimes species (in my Losing Myself from Tripping the Flash Fantastic I start the story with the name Graxia – this is highly unlike to be a human name), sometimes genre (ditto with Graxia – likely to be a fantasy name, as it is).

Names, like any other vital information, need to move the story on in some way and that can be by giving an indicator of likely status/setting as that in itself will put pictures inside the reader’s mind. You want them to see the right kind of pictures here.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

I sometimes start a flash piece with a question. It makes for a good hook as the reader knows that question has to be answered by the end of the story and they have to read on to find out how that answer happens. My The Truth from From Light to Dark and Back Again does this. I rarely finish a story with a question though I did for Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Why do that? Because the question itself reveals crucial information that wraps up the tale nicely.

Questions also make for good themes. Shorter questions might be useful as titles too. I use random question generators every so often and have found that most of the ones from those tend to be on the long side (e.g. What was your favourite meal as a child and why don’t you have it now?) and so work best as a theme.

In this example, I would probably show a character being offered an old childhood favourite meal and get them having mixed feelings over eating it because there are sad associations with it now etc. I certainly wouldn’t have that question as a title. Titles work best when kept short and snappy. They draw in a reader’s attention better too like that.

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Fairytales With Bite – Diaries

It was great fun writing my fictional fairy godmother’s diary last week. Hope you enjoyed it.

Now think about your own writing. Do you have a character who could keep a diary like that? The one thing I would say about this kind of writing is it is essential you know your character’s voice well enough. You need that strength of voice to come through to your readers (and to be able to sustain the diary for however long you choose to write it).

On a related note, in your created world, are diaries and journals kept by the population at large or only by the elite? (Can everyone read and write or is that privilege kept for a select few?). Are there official diaries that everyone can read? Would diaries be amongst your world’s historical documents and do the contents still impact on how your world is governed?

Just because a document is old doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. The Domesday Book has been cited in legal cases and is still a valid legal document. (I suspect William the Conqueror might have considered it to be his personal diary of what he owned!).

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This World and Others – Record Keeping

Who keeps the records in your fictional world? Who keeps the unofficial ones and how are they kept away from those who would destroy them? If only a few can read and write, are the scribes treated with honour by the general population or are they resented?

One thing I picked up from a medieval fair I went to some years ago was that it wasn’t unknown for scribes, when asked by a peasant to read a letter for them so they could understand its contents, to deliberately tell their client wrong information. Part of the reason for that was to drum up further business from the peasant. Get the peasant angry enough, the scribe would offer to write a suitable reply, the peasant pays up, and another letter gets written! And the scribe moves on to another town before they get found out! Scribes would often be part of travelling fairs and were always on the move.

Is there any way of the accuracy of your world’s records to be checked? Are there records which should be kept but which deliberately are not? What does your character(s) take as “gospel”and are they right do so so?

Records matter. They can confirm or remove an inheritance for one thing. They can sway how a country, say, reacts to another one, because that is all dependent on the pasts of these two nations. If one is deliberately wrong, that can easily change the course of history and the future.

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