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

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2.2.4 Comparing characters again

Figure 7

Reading other writers is an essential part of your own development as a writer.

You have seen different approaches to character portrayal in the extracts from Orwell and Heller, and as well as in the extracts from Greene and Atkinson.

Now reconsider your character sketch:

  • Is there an opportunity to add the thoughts of your character?
  • Can you situate your character in relation to a particular location?
  • Does what your character says in their dialogue tally with what they think, or is there a discrepancy?
  • Can you smuggle in some details about your character’s back story, their life prior to when we meet them?
  • Can you try to infer how your character acts in the world – for instance, are they overwhelmed or in some sense out of control (like Spicer in the Greene extract) or are they hapless (like Victor in the Atkinson extract)?

There are, of course, many more options for how a character might operate in the world – they might be optimistic, miserly, whimsical, stoic. There are many other possibilities.

It is important that you now build a habit of reading to see how other writers have revealed their characters. Don’t rely on these two readings, or on the previous two. Look for the way characters are revealed in all that you read. You can choose your own sources and examples; read as much as you can.