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.
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.
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.