Thursday, 23 June 2011

Learning From Fairytales: Characters

Since the publication of Rapunzel’s Daughters is getting ever closer, I thought I’d look at a few things it’s possible to learn from fairy tales. They are, after all, one of the most fundamental storytelling forms. Here are some thoughts on character:

First, think about what your characters are for. In fairy tales, characters fill well defined roles in the story. They are there for a purpose, or they aren’t there. If you’re one of those people with dozens of characters floating around, it’s worth looking at.

Secondly, they stay true to themselves. Fairy tale characters are utterly two dimensional in most ways, but one advantage of them is that they act in consistent ways. Consistency is a better word than believability. It isn’t about what a real person might do in a situation. It’s about what that character does.

Thirdly, every facet of the character, from their name to the way they look, contributes something to the character. Again, in fairy tales, that is mostly a function of being two dimensional, but for us, it’s worth consideration. What do things like your characters’ clothes and names say about them?

Finally, they are affected by their own actions. One of the most important points with fairy tales is that actions have consequences. That should be true of your characters too. As a ghost writer, I have worked with people where their plots involve things coming from nowhere. Trust me, it is far, far more powerful when the things that affect characters are down to their choices.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Great post! I love the usage for fairytales and there are so many ways to expand on them. :)