31. Baby

A novel is a sequence of imagined events. The different events happen because of what your characters think, feel and do. But who are these characters?

If you’ve read previous Advice to writers pages you’ll have photos or sketches or even copies of famous works of art that remind you of what each of your protagonists looks like. If you’ve followed the advice on another page you’ll have three key words on each person in your story – a kind of micro character description.

These things are very useful and keep you anchored in the personality and inclinations of the characters you first thought of. Sometimes things get a little more tricky when your story grows – as it will – and each invested person begins to find themselves in unexpected relationships and environments.

If this throws you off the scent, try to imagine your character as a very young child, as a baby even. Ask yourself:

Did she cry a lot? Did she walk early? Was she timid or bold? At what age did she begin to walk? When did she start to make friends? What were her first friends like?’

If you follow this exercise through until you reach the age your character has in your story – and it won’t take as long as you think, or at least it won’t with a little practice – you’ll be right inside their heads at the moment of crisis and you will feel your way forwards, convincingly, with integrity.