Another great MuseItUp author guesting on the blog today. Madeleine McLaughlin is the author of the MG adventure BEGGAR CHARLIE and is here to talk about writing character driven stories. Welcome, Madeleine!
MuseItUp, along with other publishers, likes character-driven stories. So the most important part of any story for the modern writer is the ‘character’ of the characters. It should be easy, right? Every person you meet in the real world has a character. All the writer needs to do is copy, yes? No.
A character driven story means that some personality trait of the character leads directly into the plot twists. For instance, a man who acts mean to someone who then goes to kill someone. The first guy has a problem, the writer gets to decide which one. A bad marriage, etc, something that will explain his character. The murderer has a neurotic character perhaps and the story goes along with that. Not so easy.
All sorts of things can suggest character. I once looked at an old England census of my ancestors and found that Dorcas Fletcher had written down her occupation as ‘Gunsmith’s Daughter’. That could suggest a very loving and proud daughter, secondary characteristics are to the writer’s and story’s taste.
Like the father can be demanding but fair, so she feels secure. Or insecure, whatever the story needs.
A trait in a person you know can be helpful. I’m lucky that I had a family with a lot of characters in it. All you have to do then is use your imagination to ‘visualize’ what your character would do. Not easy. No. Writing is never easy but when you do it right there’s a great feeling of satisfaction and also of excitement that others may like what you wrote them.
Knowledge of psychology is a great help, too. That can help you come up with plot twists and motivations. I have a diploma in Child Psychology so I know a bit about how children develop and what they need to grow up happy. I was able to use this in Beggar Charlie. The need for children to have a home and how they go looking for one when they don’t have one.
In studying child psychology, it’s good to study normal and abnormal, just so you can understand what a character may need.
So if you’re in the writing market of today, you’ll have to make lists. Lists of character traits, even of yourself. Or you can start with yourself. What I Like About Myself on one side, What I Dislike About Myself on another. Do this for other people, too. Then try and juxtapose the lists. One Like list against a Dislike list of another person. Can you think of a story to go with it?
Some writers ‘interview’ their characters. This helps them get a better picture of what they may be going through.
It’s not easy, but as I said, it’s satisfying and even calming. You’ve done something, you’ve created. The best feeling in the world.
BEGGAR CHARLIE blurb:
After begging on the streets of London, Beggar Charlie is kidnapped by press-gangers and given over to a merchant ship. He finds himself in a storm off the coast of China. The captain promises him shore leave and sends him, along with Hickory Dick ashore in the morning.
They find themselves in a hostile environment except for one Chinese boy who is friendly. When a rebellion starts and people start dying around them, they run back to the ship only to see it sink under the waves. Then Hickory Dick hatches a plan to get them all home.
Madeleine McLaughlin was raised in a small city by the Pacific Ocean. She left after she graduated from high school and spent a year in Vancouver. She moved to Ottawa in 1979 and has lived there ever since and has a room mate in an apartment downtown.
After working at all kinds of jobs she settled down to write and has poems and flash fiction, along with short stories published. Beggar Charlie is the second story published by MuseItUp Publishing.