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SPEAKER NIGHT, Michael J Malone – Wednesday 29th November 2023

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Creating Characters in Novels

Ayr Writers’ members were delighted to welcome back in to our midst, past member and past president, Michael Malone to share his wealth of knowledge about creating convincing characters in fiction.

He began by emphasising that, regardless of the period in which your fiction takes place, it is important to remember that human nature is the only element that doesn’t date. Readers will engage with ‘real’ characters, and it is the commonality of lived experience which will resonate.

He encouraged us to ‘mark’ characters by their speech, mannerisms, attitudes, body language, clothes, physical appearance, and that creating contradictions will be of particular interest to readers.

Michael also made clear the distinction between character and characterisation, with the latter being what is external, while the former is who someone really is, perhaps only revealed at moments of heightened stress or pressure.

Writers should also consider seriously what a character’s true ‘desire’ might be. This provides the key to that character and their motivation.

Throughout the evening, Michael put us to work with four exercises, helping us focus on these pieces of advice, before finishing off with some final, crucial pieces of guidance: be careful of using too much backstory, as this can interrupt the flow of the narrative. Instead, intersperse small bits occasionally. And read as a writer: analyse how a writer manages to engage you emotionally, as a reader.

The evening was rounded off by and Q & A session, from which we all gleaned more valuable snippets of information.

Thank you, Michael, for such and entertaining and inspiring presentation.

Carolyn O’Hara

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