Last weekend I attended the Crimebake conference. With panelists and speakers so generously sharing their writing and marketing experiences, I find it difficult to address only one idea. I decided to focus on the one I plan to use first.
I’ve seen and filled out lists that include a character’s hobbies, what’s in the fridge, first sexual experience, etc. Gerry Boyle, writer of the Jack McMorrow mysteries and the presenter of one of the master classes, suggested the character sketch method. He writes and revises, over months sometimes, sketches for his characters, writing in their voices.
Sometimes it is difficult to explain a villain’s motives. Sure, the villain has been wronged but so have many people and they don’t exact a terrible revenge. Is it years of daily insults and injuries that turn a person into a killer? What specific combination of nature and nurture makes a character take action so far outside the accepted norm? Becoming that character in voice and feeling might make the motivation clearer.
In my WIP, my villain holds his family close to his heart and takes revenge if any member of his family is hurt. However, at the same time, he makes dozens of victims who are strangers suffer even to the point of death. What are his rationalizations for violating so badly the rights of strangers who have not harmed him or his? I’m going to play my villain until I’m thinking (scary thought!) like my villain and can portray him in my WIP in a sentence or two. Gerry Boyle pointed out that he does not put his sketches (and the one he shared with us was fascinating) in his final draft.
Similarly, I want to know what motivates a young person with so many choices ahead of him to choose to kill. Who does he blame for his pain and why can’t he let go of that blame? Projection, I believe, is a favorite way of dumping characteristics and feelings we don’t want on others. Although I plan to recreate the young killer’s voice, I’d like to avoid becoming an expert projectionist.
Do you have a special way of deepening character?