When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.Ernest Hemingway
Designing characters is always a complex and rewarding process. You have to understand everything about them as a person – their likes, dislikes, hobbies, background… there’s nothing you can leave out. Personally, I find it quite easy to create the people in my world, because they are real people in the novel. My novel is filled with so many unique people and the main character, Grace, is one of these unique people.
Grace is a 23-year-old young woman. She has dark eyes and red-brown hair. Before the fall, she lived with her parents and little sister, Elizabeth, in Brisbane – 5 minutes from the main hospital. Her mother was Australian and met Grace’s father while studying abroad in Japan. He followed her to Australia and they made their life in Brisbane. Grace and Elizabeth were very close siblings and were practically inseparable. Diagnosed with asthma and diabetes at a young age, Elizabeth was hospitalised frequently with medical complications, and Grace felt like she needed to protect her little sister.
The war hit just after Grace’s 18th birthday and it rocked their world without warning. Her mother, a doctor, was caught in an explosion at the hospital and killed. Her father fled the city with Grace and Elizabeth and they started living in the bush and away from the cities. Not too long after the initial bombs were dropped, Elizabeth started to run low on her medication. Their father ventured into the nearby city to get some more, but contracted an illness while there and died soon after delivering the medication supply.
The siblings lived on their own for approximately 6 months with minimal complications. The medication their father had procured for Elizabeth was lasting a while. However, a storm blew through with gusty wind that caused Elizabeth to have an asthma attack. Grace tried to help her littler sister, but they ran out of the medication needed to stop the attack and Elizabeth died.
The mightiest power of death is not that it can make people die, but that it can make the people you left behind want to stop living.Fredrik Backman
Losing her sister devastated Grace and she lost hope in the world and despised being the only member of her family left alive. She hated being alone and wanted to join her family. She grew cold and spent the next few years roaming the land on her own.
Grace spent the next five years alone, and because she was alone for so long, she’s become quite harsh and cold. She doesn’t interact well with others and is mistrustful of everything. She has severe insomnia, understandably considering her environment. Her full personality starts to shine throughout the novel as new obstacles arise and her loyalties are tested.
You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are.Joss Whedon
Despite her flaws, Grace is very loyal once someone earns her trust and she does care about the fate of humanity. She is kind to children but rough with adults. She is a very reliable person and does want to see the world recover from the destruction. She is a very determined young woman – as soon as she puts her mind to something she sees it through. Her determination is tested throughout the novel and many of her ideals are challenged. Her ideals change as different obstacles and situations occur and her cold exterior starts to melt a little.
Going on the journey with Grace throughout my novel has been a rewarding experience. I’ve watched her grow not only as a character, but as a person throughout the book. She experiences so much trauma that it damages her personality, and seeing her start to open herself up again is so rewarding. She’s a very real person to me and I’m quite invested in her character and seeing her through her journey.
But, how do you know if an ending is truly good for the characters unless you’ve travelled with them through every page?Shannon Hale
You really do have to travel with your characters through every situation to truly know them and how their story will end. I need to always ensure that Grace is reacting the way she would, and not the way I would or the way I’d want her to. She has her own personality and her own thoughts, and I need to make sure that her thoughts and personality are seen through her actions and responses.
It’s been a challenging, and yet rewarding, experience. I’ve enjoyed embarking on this adventure with Grace and learning who she is and what kind of world she is living in. Watching her grow and learn throughout the novel is rewarding and exciting and I’m looking forward to taking other people on her journey.
How do you develop your characters?