At my book group yesterday, I was very offended when the book being discussed - The Lighthouse by Alison Moore - was described in a very derisory tone as reading 'like a creative writing exercise - you know, think of a character...pfft.' Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion, so it wasn't the insult to the masterly book itself I took issue with. It was the idea that creative writing exercises were stupid and that thinking up characters was either simplistic or unnecessary.
...and a chicken
Shakespeare thought up Malvolio, Jane Austen thought up Elizabeth Bennet. Dickens - Miss Haversham and Uriah Heep. Conan Doyle - Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Julia Donaldson - the gruffalo. The creation of characters is a serious and time-consuming business. There is no story if no one's in it. The success of the last Bond movie for me, was that James Bond finally got a life. He was no longer the two dimensional action hero stereotype of the previous films. He was flawed, vulnerable and I/we cared all the more as a result.
Oh yes, and there's the ingredient that goes in everything.
The character of Futh in The Lighthouse is a very complex individual. Somewhere on the autistic spectrum he endeavours to come to terms with his life whilst on a walking holiday. In the event, he is unable to cope physically or during the various interactions with others that he has along the way. It is a very bleak but always compelling book. The reader gains considerable insight into the difficulties the life offers someone like Futh. When I was thinking about character before I wrote this, I thought I would search the free images to find a photo to accompany this blog. What I found for the word 'character' very near the top, was this little tryptic of slides and I thought what a wonderfully whacky recipe for a character they would make. I thought the last one particularly pertinent, for the relationship between author and their characters is so very close. A glitter ball comes to my mind and the face of someone new on every facet.