Fresh-faced from my first conference: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at the University of Winchester. What a gas! Brilliant speakers in Celia Rees and Debi Gliori, more spent on books in 2 days than I normally manage in a month, good food and conversation, and a terrific workshop with experts Julia Bell and Julia Golding which revealed to me how LAZY I am about characterisation.
Questions to ask when you come up with a character.1. Who is this person? 2. What is their mood colour?
3. What animal do they remind you of? 4. What do they smell of? 5. What was the last thing they ate?
6. What are they thinking, the first time you see them?
*cracks knuckles, settles down to task, tongue firmly clamped between teeth*
Right. Let’s take, say, a wolf. 1) He’s a wolf. 2) He’s wolf-coloured. 3) He reminds me of a wolf. (This gets better.) 4) He smells of wet dog. 5) The last thing he ate was me. 6) He was thinking, ‘I’ll eat that author right there because she’s rubbish at characters.’
Hey, this is fun! I’m good at this! Let’s try another one. 1) He’s an angel. 2) He’s bright orange. 3) He reminds me of a golden eagle. 4) He smells of fire. 5) The last thing he ate was completely irrelevant because he’s an ANGEL, haven’t you been listening? 6) He was thinking something much too profound to put into words.
Fine. One angel, one wolf. So far so good. OR SO I THOUGHT.
Now swap one of the wolf’s six elements with one of the angel’s. Suddenly your angel smells of wet dog, and your wolf is bright orange. Or your angel likes eating authors and you have a zen wolf with a PhD in Philosophy. Zing!
This is so totally cool that I’m just going to leave it there.