Flights of Fancy · Tuesday Reflections

Creative Cloudwatching

Recently I have been listening to a backlog of podcasts from the World Book Club on my Ipod.  I listen to authors discuss their weighty award-winning tomes, to where their ideas came from and how their characters developed.  And I have begun to reach a conclusion…

While the situations we can place our characters in is endless in the permutations we can devise, there are very few truly original characters out there anymore.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Now you may be wondering how this relates to the title but I really do believe from the readers point of view characters are a little like clouds.

When you cloud watch you lay, preferably on a sunny day in a warm meadow, and gaze up at the sky picking out shapes and pictures in the cloud formations.  There is of course never really a castle in the sky or a wild horse galloping or any of the million other potential things our minds create from the mix of shadow and light.

I believe the same is true of our characters, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAregardless of the subtle nuances we may give them to try to make them individual the reader will take those same details and apply them in relation to someone of their own acquaintance to shape their image of your character.  On top of this the majority of reader bring to each new book a wealth of prior knowledge which they use whether knowingly or not to compare and contrast.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As someone who occasionally indulges in a little Chick Lit I know I look out for the classical plot lines be it Pride & Prejudice, Emma or Jane Eyre, then I compare the heroines.  I do not mean to in fact until recently I did not even realise that I did it, but I find myself categorising them into Miss Bennett’s, Miss Dashwood’s or Miss Woodhouse’s.

And if I am honest having recognised this I realised that I do the same in other genre’s.  If I am reading horror I use Bram Stoker and Anne Rice as my frame of reference, for every genre each reader has favourite writers which shape their taste and the way they read books.

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This is not necessarily a bad thing despite the negative way in which I have approached this the reader is able to engage with the characters quicker if they can recognise the basic characteristics.  It also allows you to lead the reader to think they know how a character will behave then with a puff of wind you can blow their shape in such a way as to leave the reader breathless, or stunned.   Ultimately we cannot control exactly how the reader will view our creation only give them the outline that will hopefully guide them in the direction we ourselves see our characters heading.

But let’s be honest the world would be a far more boring place and the options for discussion so much more limited if while laying looking up at the clouds we all saw the saw castles in the sky.

14 thoughts on “Creative Cloudwatching

    1. I think maybe this doesn’t read quite the way i meant it to I was really trying to get the point over that as a reader we automatically bring prior knowledge of how we view a character based on others we have read before


      1. No it reads that way, I understood. My comment was meant specifically that because I read across so many genres it is often difficult to cast character expectations. For example, one of my favorite books of all times is Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein, his characters are very human. His books have always been slotted as SF, though I wouldn’t put all his books in this genre.


  1. Good metaphor, especially since I love clouds so much. I think it was Noah Lukeman in “The First Five Pages” who said it isn’t necessary to over describe characters since readers will fill in the detail themselves anyway.


  2. Lovely analogy between characters and clouds – this line is amazing – “…then with a puff of wind you can blow their shape in such a way as to leave the reader breathless, or stunned.”

    Beautiful 😀


  3. Great photos. My favorite is the first one.

    Thank You liking my newest post. I have no explanation to it why nobody could leave comment. It is a mystery to me.

    I am still working by my Mobile broadband modem for my connection. I have been promised to get operational connection to our new home in December on Friday the 14th, 2012.Let’s hope that they keep their promise. Happily I made many posts ready for publication, because I expected something like this problem. My Internet connection is giving me more gray hair, gray although they are white grey already.


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