Here we are in the middle of October and I am busy getting ready for NaNoWriMo. I am currently working on my characters and trying to give them a good back story. Obviously, I am spending more time on my main characters, but I am trying to get a little bit for each character. My goal is to have characters that seem real and not just a cardboard cutout.
Because of this, I decided that I needed to see how a master does it. I am a huge Stephen King fan and I have always loved how his characters stood out, so I went to the library and checked out The Shining. I have seen the movie, but I have never read the book.
I am glad that I chose this one. I have just started reading it and already the characters have much more depth than the movie did. It has been quite some time since I have watched the movie, so it will be interesting to see if I just missed some things when I saw it.
The thing about King’s characters is that you know them. You don’t just watch them go through the story, you are with them as they grow and change. His characters have a past that influences their decisions.
It is the way that he presents the past that really adds to the reality of his characters. He delivers it in small pieces; a flashback here, thinking about a it little there, somebody mentions something. Suddenly, you have a character that is a loving husband and father, had a drinking problem, physically hurt his son, his wife almost left him, quit drinking and struggles with that every day, lost his job, and has just moved 2,000 miles for a chance at another job.
If King had used a prologue or a flashback that just played those scenes out, he would have missed a chance at showing more about those characters. In the little snippets, you see how the character reacts to them. You see the father wince when remembering hurting his son. You see him wondering how long he would need to be sober before he can have a couple of cocktails. You know more about the character than just the laundry list of his past.
I will do my best to make characters that are real and memorable. I will try to use some of the techniques that I am learning from Stephen King. I will definitely keep these ideas in mind when I edit my manuscripts.
For those of you who are getting ready for NaNo this year, I encourage you to read a novel or two before November. Pick one that does some of the things that you are attempting to do and pick it apart and figure out what has made it work. I am glad that I did.