Today I wanted to talk about characters. I truly believe that the characters are the most important part of any story – sure there can be an elaborate plot, some exciting action, a wonderful setting but if I don’t feel some kind of connection to the characters then I tend to lose interest. Any stories I write always start with characters – generally they just pop into my head, sparked by a situation, an image or even just a random overheard sentence. Sometimes they come fairly well formed and are happy to ‘chat’ away to me, sometimes they need dragging out and it’s like pulling teeth to get what I need from them 🙂
One of the things I love most about writing is that I never know what they’re going to do, or where they’re going to take me until it actually happens. It’s a journey I’m taking with them (or perhaps just their journey and I’m hanging on for the ride!). It often takes me in a completely unexpected direction, and I’ve given up trying to plan out their story beforehand as it never works out that way.
Some of you may know that I’m a huge How I Met Your Mother fan. This week I was hugely excited for the finale – finally we would see how it all ended and I was sat back waiting for a warm and fuzzy climax to nine series of fanatical viewing. Unfortunately, an hour later I was sat there going ‘what the hell?’- I absolutely hated it! An internet check proves I’m most definitely not the only one, and when I was thinking up this post it clarified for me slightly more just what I didn’t like about it.
I don’t want to give anything away for those who may not have seen yet, but there was a rather ‘sad’ event, which seems to have been focused on, and I was actually okay with that part. It was the fact that the ending felt completely wrong in terms of the characters. Now, normally I would defend a writer’s right to do what they want with their own ‘babies’ but in this case it seemed very obvious that this was an ending that the writers had wanted right at the start of the series – it was even filmed with child actors who grew up years ago! Sadly, they didn’t seem to take into account that the series had grown, progressed and the characters had so hugely developed since then that the original ending just didn’t seem to make sense anymore. It seemed to show characters regressing back to their original, rather one-dimensional versions and ignoring much of the emotional journey they had taken in the meantime. The writers seemed to have clung so tightly to their ‘plan’ that they didn’t listen to their characters. Take note that your readers or your viewers take the journey with your characters as well, they get to know them, they feel they can relate to them – and if they suddenly act in a way that completely jars with their character development just to fit into a neat and tidy plot bow – well then they will notice!