WHO AM I? A Comment on Characterisation
First of all, and what many people have noted, I tend to give my characters ânormalâ names such as Roger, Keith, Anna, Sam, Alicia. This was a conscious choice because when Iâve read books in the past I find it hard to get my head around weird alien names and lose track of who is who. I didnât want my readers to have the same problem so Iâd just rather keep it simple and direct. Even so a few slightly different names did creep in, like Kristof and Skylar. Again not alien names, but just a little unusual. I probably couldnât walk down the street and meet a Kristof or Skylar, but I could probably bump into a Keith.
Names notwithstanding, once a character has a name, what do you do with them? Well in any story you have a protagonist, a character whose experiences the story is built around. Sometimes but not all the time you have an antagonist in direct opposition to the protagonist. Their conflict creates the story. Actually itâs not quite that simple, but that is a starting point. In my novels I tend to have more than one protagonist, allowing multiple points of view and multiple antagonists as well. It mixes things up more, and sometimes a protagonist can change roles and so can the antagonist. Their roles are not set, but are dictated by how each character progresses in the story.
Itâs never as cut and dried as good versus evil. Good people sometimes do bad things and bad people do good things. Characters are not consistent, and may make a good decision one day and a bad the next, even when confronted with the same circumstances. Why? Is this bad writing? No, in real life people are equally inconsistent, Iâm inconsistent. We live, we change, we make mistakes and sometimes we donât. Characters follow suit.
I also believe that characters shouldnât necessarily get on, even if they are on the same side, they have different interpretations of what that side is. For instance, the characters Keith and Roger in âHunter No Moreâ actively despise each other. Keith sees Roger as small minded, Roger sees Keith as alien and arrogant. But that doesnât mean they canât work together, it doesnât mean they canât love the same people. But they are at odds, and that conflict helps to define who they are and make them more interesting as people. If they liked each other, and did everything without argument, that would make them the same person. Superficially the description would be different, but the characters would be duplicates of each other. People are all unique and different and no-one is exactly the same. In life we are all the stars of own shows, for the characters itâs no different. Even a minor character doesnât know they are a minor character. In their own life they are the protagonist and they have to be written that way.
So we have names, conflict, descriptions. Someone is tall, someone is fat, someone is a man, someone is a woman. Gender stereotypes: the man should be strong, the woman should be weak. That is rubbish, a woman can be stronger than a man, both physically and mentally. A woman shows more emotion than a man? Maybe in feature films, but in a story we are interested in the inner voice. A man and woman can be equally afraid, equally grief-stricken, equally brave, and equally hysterical. Characters react and feel, man or woman, it shouldnât matter. Iâm not saying they should be written the same, but a writer should avoid being influenced by preconceptions about gender as much as possible. Why, as much as possible? Because we are all influenced by our upbringing, and every independent thought is tinged by that. I have no doubt that some stereotypes creep into my writing, but the trick is to avoid those stereotypes as much as you possibly can.
Finally itâs all about the layers; layers of behaviour, layers of reaction, layers of internal and external argument, layers of action. After injecting a character with enough layers, plot no longer dictates their actions, rather their actions dictate the plot. Keith isnât going to say to Kristof, letâs blow up this place and go home. Itâs not in his character. So plot hinges on how a character would act, and you canât just throw in plot twists which donât fit with a characterâs actions. You have to write the characterâs actions based on their developed traits and let the story play out as honestly as possible. Thatâs when it gets interesting for a writer, really interesting, because as youâre writing you donât know exactly what is going to happen next.
The Hunter Class Spacecraft designated 'The Amberjack' disappeared during a routine mission to Seek, Locate and Destroy the enemy Machine Mind contingent known as âThe Ochreâ. Conclusion: It was either destroyed by the Ochre or went rogue for reasons unknown. If sighted, approach with extreme caution.
On the planet Borealis, a violent revolution forces Samantha Marriot and her parents to flee their home for the relative safety of âThe Rainbow Islandsâ. Once there, Sam discovers a secret her father has been keeping from her all her life, a secret that will change everything.
Meanwhile, The Machine Mind Hierarchy of Earth dispatches a ship to rid themselves of the planetâs troublesome human population. The only hope of a defence lies with a damaged binary Hunter unit that has long since abandoned both its programming and weaponry.
In order for the unit to succeed it must call upon the aid of an ancient enemy, and prove, once and for all, that it is a Hunter no more.
AUTHOR INFORMATION & LINKS
G.D. Tinnams has worked as a barman, a call centre operator, an IT support analyst, and a software tester. But during all this time he was also an insatiable reader of science fiction and fantasy books like Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Robert Charles Wilson's Blind Lake and Greg Egan's Permutation City. He is very fond of weird, mind-bending stories and decided quite early on to try writing some. âSurface Tensionâ is his second novel.