Clare: Intelligent, loyal, paranoid, jealous.
Clare thinks Alice is a manipulative liar who is trying to steal her life.
Alice thinks Claire is jealous of her long-lost return and place in their family.
One of them is telling the truth. The other is a maniac.
Two sisters. One truth.
Getting to know your character by Sue FortinCharacters can make or break a novel and, for me, it’s really important that I know the characters in my book inside-out. Once I have the rough idea for a novel, before I can begin writing, I get to know my characters.
For Sister, Sister, I knew that my main character, Clare Tennison, was a capable and confident career woman. I needed her to be strong enough that she could get through the hurdles I was about to put in her way but also to show a not-so-confident side to her. I needed to show how she changed over the course of the story from a confident and successful woman to someone who was even doubting herself but, ultimately, someone whose strength would see them through.
I asked Clare lots of questions so I could drill down into her personality and predict how she would react to the situations and events I had planned for her. I needed to make sure this would be believable and keep the story moving forward. There are lots of examples on the internet of questions to ask your characters. I start with basic things like age, job, family, what they like to do in their spare time, small incidental bits of information that probably won’t end up in the novel, but go towards helping me profile my character. Then I will go on to ask more searching questions, like what is their biggest regret, what do they love the most, have they ever broken the law? It’s surprising what you can learn about your characters this way, sometimes their answers aren’t what you’re expecting.
The next thing I do is to try to understand why my characters have given those answers. I attended a workshop run by Julie Cohen where she spoke about getting to know your character and understanding the reasons for their actions. Always ask your character ‘why?’ until you’re beyond exhaustion, it’s such a worthwhile exercise.
As I said, not all the information I gather makes it onto the page but it all helps me to create a character who will act and react in a realistic and believable way.