“…I know for a fact they’ve been please with my work, and by and large, I have too. My donors have always tended to do much better than expected. Their recovery times have been impressive, and hardly any of them have been classified as ‘agitated,’ even before fourth donation. Okay, maybe I am boasting now. But it means a lot to me, being able to do my work well…” – (Ishiguro)
In Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro uses his characters to tell the story but he also presents a sentimental female lead who does not come off as weak. She’s kind and caring and intelligent, yet strong when she needs to be. That’s the kind of character I’m constructing as my protagonist’s side-kick. While reading the novel didn’t actually influence my character development, Ishiguro does provide me a model to work from when thinking about my secondary main character. I’ve already pretty much fully realized my protagonist, Tasha. But her counterpart and eventually buddy, Ny-ello, is still a little flat. Since she needs to carry half the story and has a very important part to play in the actual action and exterior conflict of the plot, it’s important for her to be strong enough, compelling enough, to stand up to the challenge.
Interesting characters are an important part of a story. They’re the ones living it, after all. Usually I let a character just sort of pop into my head and roll around awhile, living there until they’re ready to come put. But that doesn’t always work. In order to keep something so large as a novel moving forward and straight, I’ve opted to use the character worksheets to build my two main characters. To have Ny-ello be almost as compelling as Tasha, I’ve filled out a worksheet for her, answering questions about her as her. I’m doing the work sheet in order to get really deep into her head that way it will be easier to write her dialogue and be her when I’m writing her chapters. I’m also experimenting with little scenes, inserting each character into a what-if scenario and seeing how they would react, sort of like character sketches. If I allow them to flow naturally from the information I’ve provided myself, then they will both be compelling to the reader and feel more dynamic. It’s not often that I use this tactic, but here’s an example from the worksheet.
- Place of Origin – Jupiter
- Largest Internal Fear – Abandonment by friends and family
- Education Level – higher education, college equivalent with specialization in dismemberment
Sometimes it can be tough to know who the bad guy is in a story. I like to look at characters though my own lenses and try to see them as dynamic, rich, diverse within themselves people. It’s hard to do that when an author hasn’t fully fleshed out a character’s personality. When reading, I like to see a bit of personal description so I can gain an image of a character, then a whole lot of personality shown to me through speech and action. If I can provide that for the reader, a character that feels real, then I think I can put them into a setting that works for them and allows them to tell an interesting story. Not every story is character driven, but every story has them and the better they are, the more likely they’ll be to attract readers.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. New York: Vintage International, 2005.
*in text link from Goodreads.com