Jodi and Robyn, those fabulous ladies from WOW, are stopping by again today to introduce us to a very versatile and busy author. Welcome Ms. Lisa de Nikolits!!
ABOUT LISA de NIKOLITS
Originally from South Africa, Lisa has been a Canadian citizen since 2003–although she still retains a lilting voice that causes fellow Canadians to ask, “You aren’t from Canada, eh?” With a Bachelor’s of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy, Lisa has also lived and worked in the United States, Australia, and Great Britain.
Lisa thought she was on her way to fame and fortune when the South African edition of Cosmopolitan bought two of her poems in 1986. Sadly, the road to being a published writer was not as easy as she had hoped! Throughout her writing career, Lisa has tried her hand at everything from children’s picture books to short stories to novellas to feature magazine articles. Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, which won an IPPY Gold Medal for Women’s Fiction 2011, was inspired by her work as art director for magazines including Vogue and Marie Claire. Lisa is now working on her next novel, Between the Cracks She Fell.
Find out more about Lisa by visiting her online:
Author website and Art design website.
Creating Three-Dimensional Characters
A few of nights ago over dinner, a couple of author friends and I were discussing a workshop we’re thinking of hosting. We were bouncing ideas back and forth about what we each of us could contribute and one of my friends turned to me and said, “you should talk about character development. Your characters are wonderfully idiosyncratic and yet they’re absolutely believable. They have depth to them and their dialogue is great.”
Talk about pleased! I nearly fell off my chair with delight. So, when the opportunity for this post came up, I thought it was timeous for me to give some thought to my characters and how I go about creating them. Of course, I immediately panicked, worrying that, faced with dissection, they would vanish on me, never to return. We writers can be such panic-stricken, phobic folk!
But then I realised that I’m as likely to lose my characters as I am to lose my friends – because my characters aremy friends. I love hanging out with them, I love watching them evolve – it’s as if they exist out there in the ether and I draw them closer by experimentation and endless questioning; does this one love computer games or prefer long walks in the park? What does he or she wear? What are their teeth like? Noses? How many earrings adorn their lobes, eyebrows or other body parts? I consider tattoos, height, hair color, the shape of their eyes, what their voices sound like, how they laugh… Do they have an accent and if so, how does this tie into the story? Did they like school, and were they bullied or maybe they were bullies themselves? Are they peaceful, angry, restless, hungry, lazy or perhaps they’re apathetic, waiting for that jolt of action, that catalyst that I’ll throw their way, the one that will spur them to action?
Familial relationships, geneology, childhood vacations, most-hated foods, most loved foods, favourite bedtime story, the sound of a sneeze, changing body language in different situations – the list of things to ponder and imagine is endless.
I wouldn’t be surprised if readers of this blog stop at this point and say, “oh really, that’s just NOT realistic – what is she doing, writing a backstory that’s as long as War and Peace?” and the answer is yes and no – yes, in that I think about all of that – but no in terms of how much of it actually makes it into the book – that might well just end up being a couple of lines. However, if you’ve mapped out all of the above (and then some!), the authenticity of the backstory will shine through so strongly that your character will be utterly believable even when the only thing you mention is the curve of her cheekbone.
And your in-depth backstory will help you with the dialogue too – you’ll know what kind of expressions your character will use, or the tone and inflection with which she’ll say things.
The most helpful tip I’ve learnt for achieving effective dialogue is this: read your copy out loud. You may think you sound as foolish as all heck, but give it a try, it really works.
Once you have all these elements, you can go even further by adding a sprinkle of idiosyncrasy and this is where you can have all kinds of fun. And because of all your hard work in understanding your protagonist and fleshing out her backstory, her idiosyncrasies will be believable and then, because of the idiosyncrasies, she’ll be unforgettable which is just about the best thing one can achieve with a character.
And don’t forget, you also have to name your protagonist and my goodness, is this ever a challenge! A name immediately reveals so much and is critically important, because this is your reader’s first introduction to your key player (or any player in fact. Even minor bit part players add weight to the richness of a book and their names are equally as important).
I always hope that even if my characters aren’t immediately likeable, that they will be intriguing. A reader doesn’t particularly have to like a character but they do need to care about them and while that may sound odd or contradictory, think about all the great villains in literature – nice guys are tossed aside in favour the bad boy for good reason – they’re far more entertaining!
So there you have it, three key points to 3D character development: backstory, dialogue and idiosyncrasies – plus a few other bits and pieces that I hope you’ll find helpful.
ABOUT THE BOOK
THANKS TO AUTHOR, LISA de NIKOLITS, I HAVE
ONE (1) COPY OF HER BOOK TO GIVE AWAY.
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