When I’m not writing I’m a father of one, waiting for the second, an amateur carpenter, gardener, marathon runner, musician and computer game player. Naturally writing is not earning me the money to do any of these other things. For that I’m a technical architect / IT manager / programmer / sys admin / DBA. I wear a lot of hats because the company I work for is very small, consisting of only six people at present. How does this relate to writing? I’m glad you asked. Read on.
Lots of hats
From the point of view of being an author it isn’t possible to simply be able to write. There isn’t a team of experts sitting in an office waiting for me to tell them what to write, how to write it or who to send copies to. I’m a team of one. I have to outline and be creative then I have to organise that work and write it out. I have to revise and edit everything and I have to make my own contacts in the writing industry. There are a lot of roles I have to assume before I’m even talking to a publisher. This is one of the reasons such a relatively small proportion of authors get anywhere. Most people have at least one of the skills needed to be published, but almost no one starts out with everything. I like to think I’m quite creative, I’m able to create a deeper plot than would appear on the surface. That is a skill that I learned and practiced. What I’m not so good at is presenting that plot in a coherent and ordered fashion to engage and thrill. I’m working on those skills.
In the book
Just as I’m not just an author, not just a father and so on, my characters need to be more than plot devices. My hours are filled to overflowing with things I have to do and things I choose to do. If I were to retire and regain the 8 – 10 hours each day I normally work, those hours would fill as quickly as a hole in the sand at the beach fills with water. I’ve previously expressed my desire to retire early, as early as possible, and people ask: “what would you do? Wouldn’t you get bored?” That is about the most ridiculous question I’ve been asked. It assumes that all I am and all I do is work and so without work I would have nothing and be nothing. I try very hard to make sure my characters are more than just the work they do in the story. The main character might have to go from point A to point B and talk to plot character C, but I try to make sure the reader believes there would be a dozen other things they would do if they weren’t engaged directly in the story.
One way I come up with other things for my characters to do is either write a part of the story leading into a weekend or after a hard days work or I imagine the scene at least. I try to see what they do when they aren’t “on the clock” as it were. It adds depth but it also adds investment in the outcome. If the reader sees the character at play with his kids and tending a rose garden (probably not at the same time) and then the character is being threatened with death, the reader can see something of the loss the character will face. You don’t want his kids to grow up without a father do you?