It’s fascinating: this character development stage. I really should have done all this before starting the novel, but somehow it’s refreshing to do it during the midst of all the action: to discover elements about the individuals I’ve been writing about that I had never realised before; to find out their back-story, their feelings and motives for previous, and potential, behaviour. It’s very complex but fascinating all the same.
So far, I’ve managed to write sections of mini-biographies for both Madeline and Penelope which help explain who they are and why they behave the way they do. Madeline’s story, she being my protagonist, is amazingly complicated and twisty. I’m creating someone who has backward morals and a strange sense of her own person – a desire to be everyone else but herself. But somehow it suits her: from knowing she had a bipolar mother and a father struggling to cope with an ill wife and young daughter, to finding out that she had to leave her first love because she couldn’t stand who she really is: just another ordinary girl. Madeline’s desire to be someone spectacular, to be the centre piece of a story so wild it’s almost unbelievable, is what drives her and, incidentally, what drives the plot of my novel – so at least we have something in common. But finally I feel like I know why she is who she is, at least partly: there will always be an element of Madeline’s character that will remain hidden, that is at the crux of her allure.
The character of Penelope has surprised me though. Writing her history I didn’t realise how tragic it might have been – that it has to have been this way in order for the novel to work. She is the character whom you sympathise with – not Madeline – and it’s odd to have a protagnoist whom readers are meant not to quite know, or like, or understand: but Penelope tempers any frustration that might arise from such a strange perspective just by being so genuinely lovely. She is Madeline’s opposite I suppose, and that is required by the time readers reach this point in the novel.
I still have a long way to go. I’ve only written half of each of the biographies: and that is from an outsider’s perspective, just getting the chronological story of the events of their lives down onto paper. I still have to sift through this and decide how each character feels and experiences these things, why the decisions made are almost fated because of who they each are – to prove that no other choices could have been made that would have made sense to them. It’s like setting up the domino effect – how this domino falls just so, toppling the next one which hits another, that makes this other one fall, and so on and so forth until all that is left are a selection of dominoes strewn across the floor, not one left standing, waiting for you to stand them all up again.