Francesca Suters delves into the way characters come to life.
Before I wrote my novel, I would sometimes read interviews or articles where authors wrote of becoming close to their characters, of “knowing” the characters in their book. To be honest, I used to think that it was a little contrived. After all, in fiction, the characters are not real. Even if they are based on real people, the author is in control. Surely the author, of all people, would realise that they were making it all up!
Since emerging from the experience of writing my novel, Returning, I now see things from the “author” perspective I mentioned above. In writing a large piece of work, particularly a novel, an author invests a lot of time and emotion into character development, into transforming those words on a page into people, emotions and events. This investment transforms the characters into people, adjectives into emotions and descriptions into events.
The number of ways a fictional character can come about is probably equal to the number of fictional characters themselves. Sometimes characters can be inspired by real people. Sometimes an author will have a particular person in mind and replicate that person as a character, perhaps with a few minor changes. At other times an author can grab a trait here, an attitude there, combine them and create a new, unique character. By the end of the book, if they have done the job well enough, they can create a new person. I find the latter exercise to be the most fun, as it is yet another avenue for an author’s imagination to take hold.
I will happily admit to you, that in writing my first novel, I was surprised by the way certain characters took shape. I would commence writing a passage with a skeleton of an idea. This idea, remarkably to me, would often take on a life of its own. By the end of writing the passage, I would know more about the characters involved. I would feel closer to them. Equally, I would know when something just wasn’t quite right and needed amending to suit the character better. It was also very confronting at times to come to the realisation of when a character’s time had come to an end, or when a character should never have been there in the first place. Like any real-life relationship, the time I invested in them helped me to get to know them better. (By the way, doing away with unnecessary characters was hard – it felt like I was betraying them. But it was for the greater good. If writing is akin to making a new friends, then editing can at times be likened to breaking up.)
During the process of writing Returning, I took some time off. Real life commitments meant that I had less time to write. My motivation waned and I started to feel distance grow between myself and my characters. When I finally went back to finish the manuscript, I felt the need to first take time to get to know the characters again before I could carry on writing. I needed to familiarise myself with their attitudes, their experiences and the back-stories which made them who they were at any particular point in the book. It was only once I felt comfortable in this that I was able to continue on weaving their stories together and controlling their destinies (insert evil laugh here).
There is a saying that familiarity breeds contempt, but I disagree. In my case, familiarity breeds friendship. Now, after writing, reading, editing, rewriting and re-reading Returning (phew), I feel very close to the characters, even the ones I made up from virtually nothing. So much so, that I am itching to get stuck into writing the sequel. I want to be involved in these lives again. I want to create. I know them and I want to take them into my heart once more.
Rita is 29, married to her soul mate and a mother to two adorable young daughters. She has always thought of a new year as a clean slate, but one New Year’s Day is a clean slate like no other, when Rita wakes up as her 16-year-old self, living her 16-year-old life.
Piero is a loner. The only recent exception to his solitude had been his close friendship with Rita’s sister until her sudden death. Now he finds himself instrumental in helping Rita make sense of the new direction her life has taken.
A thought-provoking story, Returning seamlessly invites the reader into both adult and teenage mindsets and tackles the what-ifs. What if you were able to live your teenage years with the wisdom of your adult mind? What if you met your partner at a different time? What if your regrets could be re-written?
Francesca Suters is a thirty-something Australian woman who wears many hats (not literally). She has a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Newcastle (NSW) and works part-time in a corporate setting (lawyer hat). She is married (wife hat) with three children (mum hat). She has always loved writing. In recent years, Francesca has pursued this interest through blogging (blogger hat), a hobby which is flexible enough to fit around her responsibilities as a working parent. Francesca has just published her first novel (author hat), Returning, which is available for purchase as a paperback and an ebook.