Friday, February 06, 2015

Characters who hold your interest.

One of the things I struggle with in my stories is when there are too many characters. I have to introduce them slowly, one by one, so as not to confuse the reader. I have to give them non-confusing names.  No Ajay and Vijay or Tina and Bina in the same story. I have to make each character memorable, so that the reader can differentiate between them. And most of all, I have to make each one interesting. The reader should want to know what is going to happen to this person.

That is a tall order. And when I'm stuck, I do the natural thing. Eat chocolate cake. No, seriously, I look to the experts to see how they do it. So when I read a book, I observe how the writer has introduced the characters, and whether I'll benefit from that technique. It slows down reading, and takes away some of the joy of reading, but that's a professional hazard.

Anyway, I've been trying this with movies too. Movies and TV serials have the visual advantage. They can give you different-looking people, wearing different kind of clothes, and you can easily make out who is who. In a story, all this work has to be done with words. So yeah, it might be easier in the visual medium. But you still have to make the viewer care for your characters. How do they do that? You need not like the character. You should just be hooked enough to love them or hate them, or at least want to know what will happen to them.

Coincidentally, just as I was grappling with this problem, Star World started telecasting Downton Abbey a couple of weeks ago. I like British programmes, and I like period dramas. So I decided to give this a shot (mainly because I didn't have any interesting book to read that night.) Downton Abbey has a plethora of characters, but yet, within one episode, all 10-15 of them were known to me. And by the second episode, I was itching to watch the third episode because I was involved with the characters and was thinking about them all day.

I don't know whether Downton Abbey will continue to hold my interest, but for me, it will remain memorable as a study in how to make the viewer immediately care deeply for fictional characters.


Anonymous said...

Feb 5th post Yelli!

Shruthi said...

Naale! :p

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