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Start writing fiction: characters and stories
Start writing fiction: characters and stories

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6.2.4 Self-portrait

Figure 10

There are different kinds of self-portrait characterisations, as identified by Novakovich.

You will recognise, in the first part of Novakovich’s description of the self-portrait method and the example he gives of Hemingway’s story, a mode very similar to the one you have already seen in Heller’s Notes on a Scandal, which you looked at in Reading characters in Week 1. This involves a direct exposition of a ‘seen’ character accompanied by an indirect exposition of another character (the narrator).

Novakovich also details a more direct sort of self-portrait with the Dostoyevsky extract, which you read in Revealing characters. The PDF of this extract is also available as a PDF [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] for your convenience.

Activity 6.3 Trying self-portrait characterisations

Now try either of these approaches with your ‘new’ character:

  • have them either as an explicit first person (‘I’) character narrating themselves
  • or have them as a narrator who talks about the other character and in doing so reveals something of themselves.

Write about 250 words or so in your notebook.

This time you should also make your character desire something, and make the desire their driving force. It will work best if you make whatever the character desires desirable in the reader’s eyes too. Think about why they can never have what they want. ‘Three Hours Between Planes’ is a good example of this.

By giving your character desires and disappointments you will see how this quickly develops potential stories.