To me, a novel should have its share of being both plot and character driven, as I hope you might have seen in the Birth of an Assassin series. Currently, I’m into a new, yet to be published, project titled A Destiny to Die For and I’m about 17k into book three, but I’ve hit a stumbling block and have failed to make much progress over the last week to ten days – because of a character. Instead of getting on with it I keep going over what I’ve already written or sit around thinking over what I should be doing; my wife tells me I have a greater capacity to do nothing than anyone she’s ever met. But why, writer’s block? you ask. No, it’s my character Luis, he appears in the first two books, but the time has come to give the young man a little more depth.
In the previous offerings it was clear enough that Luis was a little different to what you might deem normal, but there had never been reason to expand on him any further than what was done. Now, however, he is getting his first POV scene and the need to make him a truly full and real person comes with the job. Let me expand. While I have no claim to having even a morsel of the success of Mick Jagger or Robert De Niro, their music and acting helps me explain where I’m at with this piece of writing.
I watched a documentary some time ago called ‘Being Mick’. One of the scenes took him into a very small booth in a recording studio. Before he began singing, he shook his head about to free his hair and loosened his clothing at the neck. When the song began proper he threw himself around like a mad thing.
“What are you doing that for, no one can see you?” the narrator asks after he’s done.
“Well, you have to get into the part, don’t you?” he replied with a cheeky grin.
Mick Jagger is clearly a great song writer and very popular singer, musician, iconic hero even, but he is also a hard headed business man. The person you see on stage is possibly, probably, far different to the private one of everyday life, but with all his experience he still has to get into the part.
Similarly, Robert De Niro is a mega successful method actor and being such he feels the need to become the person he is portraying in his movies; whether a good man or a bad one; sometimes the Devil himself. And you must admit, he does it all so very convincingly you will either love or hate him depending on the role he is playing.
A writer has the same requirement, getting into character, which brings me to where I am with Luis. While this boy has had a truly traumatic background, he is naturally mischievous and can be a bit of a wind up. His persona is deep, rich and quite complex. If I can’t get into his head, feel his emotions, go through what he goes through on a daily basis then I can’t do him justice. Of course, all people are complex, but if you write someone into your work that is more so than most, you have to pay the price – or fail to get the character across to the reader. At the end of the day, or scene in this case, you won’t need anything like what you discover about the character, but if you don’t fully understand him, if you don’t know all there is to know in the early stages of his existence, you might well lose or veer off from his true spirit in later scenes.
I haven’t written this article to bang on about how I might occasionally struggle with my work. It is something every writer should encounter during their career and you can’t give it any less than everything you have to offer – it’s a debt you owe to your characters. I guess what I’m saying is, take your time, it will come when you’ve thought it through enough.
Birth of an Assassin – Available soon as a Box Set.