I didn’t have an idea for the blog this morning, which is rare, so the husband suggested that I sit with him and read the papers for a while first, and that’s what I did.
We have several Sunday papers, for variety, and because they’re very good for gathering ideas, and they’re part of our routine. I always read the papers in the same order, one at a time, one after the other. As usual, this morning, I began with the Telegraph.
The inside back of the Telegraph hosts a little column called “Wogan’s World”, which I never read. I haven’t read it once, not even this morning. It always passes me by, and the reason for this is that I am not a fan of the Irish gentleman (not that it has anything to do with his being Irish or a gentleman, you understand).
Terry Wogan is one of my examples of someone I just don’t like. I don’t have a reason, I don’t know him, but I just don’t like him. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t like him, and I’d never say that he’s in any way bad or nasty. I couldn’t hazard a guess as to what he’s actually like... you know... in real life, and I hope, if he gets wind of this blog, that he won’t hold it against me if we should ever happen to meet.
Terry Wogan did do me a favour this morning, however, because he made me wonder about characters. Is it easier to write about people I like? Do I turn the characters I don’t like into caricatures? Are there really any such things as goodies and baddies? Are my baddies simply ciphers?
I hope the answer to that is ‘no’.
It is true, I do fall in love with my protagonists. Indeed, in my first two novels I even go so far as to believe that my protagonists are genuine heroines, and that’s pretty rare in contemporary fiction of a more-or-less serious sort.
In my first novel, the villains are pretty well all off-screen. There are characters who are not altogether easy to love, but I hope they are well-rounded, believable and sympathetic. I know that in my head, all of the characters I’ve written in that first book are recognisable as individuals: personalities in their own rights.
My second novel, “Naming Names” is more complicated. I did fall in love with my protagonist, but not until long after she began talking to me. I also fell a little in love with the other main character, although, the first time around, my protagonist was talking very loudly, so he didn’t come through very strongly on the page.
I was listening with my heart when I wrote the protagonist and with my head when I wrote the other main character, but, I suppose, that’s what edits are for. I knew exactly who this man was and why he was in the novel, and I liked and admired him, I even knew he’d be played by Martin Freeman in the movie of the book. Now all I need do is make sure the reader feels about him the way I do.
As for the villain... Well, I despised her so roundly that I hardly gave her a voice at all in the first draft, but, on the whole, I rather like it that way. As for the reader? Trust me, you’ll know who she is.
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