One of the first things they taught me was how to make a character chart - by taking 10 or so names, and writing each at the head of a long column in your notebook. If, like me, you're comfortable with spreadsheets, then do it electronically. Then, you start to fill in the columns with names, characteristics, relationship to the others, jobs, and so forth. It's vital that you have this material noted down in order to avoid those awful mistakes, halfway through a novel or maybe in your third, when the blue-eyed boy becomes a brown-eyed charmer.
Some of my first characters had jobs I've never done or am likely to do, but I researched by reading first and then going to visit the places they might have worked. In order to find out about glassblowing, I went, one freezing cold morning, to watch how it was done. I chose a studio, Bath Aqua Glass, where glassblowing is still carried out in the traditional manner, albeit with the safety equipment my characters would not have had in 1826.
My own Grandfather was a surgical instrument maker, and I well remember him coming home from the forge, and what his hands were like, and what he ate, and his tales of the doings there. He had a passion for his work, and a joy in the artistry of it, which I saw again in the faces of the men in Bath. They told me about the history, and the dangers, and that arsenic oxide smells like coconut. This is how the novel has its first quickening, and shows the first tender signs of life.
Fill your paper with the writings of your heart - William Wordsworth
|You can find Bath Aqua Glass here|