Now that I've decided to, finally, bite the bullet and call myself a writer, it occurred to me that it was probably worthwhile reading about the craft. I have been given a list of books to read, all of which I am sure are excellent and I feel quite confident that any fellow writers reading this will have ones of their own to add. But, I have decided to start with the Open University's free taster course on writing fiction which looks at characterisation.
I'm about half way through, resisting the activities because I never was very fond of putting effort into homework however I have realised that I am very lazy. More so than you might think. I didn't really think about my characters at all. They just sort of appeared as the book wrote itself. I didn't question their arrival, I just pulled up a chair for them and baked some more cake. Eventually I wrote a one page of bullet points, in large letters, for each of the four female main characters. It was an extremely useful exercise but I'm not sure it was really enough.
The competition feedback I received, whilst mostly positive, commented on the difficulty in telling the four women apart. All the incredibly polite, encouraging, yet negative responses I've had from literary agents have basically said the agent failed to connect with my characters. Now that might be their standard email template but I'm beginning to think that I should have done more, I should have worked harder on getting to know my characters.
'They' say that your first novel is the one you learn the most from and even thought The Gaia Effect is finished I would say that we are probably only on the second draft. The first was editing the crap out of it in order to make it presentable for the competition. I almost felt like I could never read it again. Now I'm thinking it's time to interview my characters in depth and physically build the world they live in. If I can't do that then I can't say with confidence that I did my best. I know the writing is good, it's just the craft that needs improvement.