How to build a recurring character in stories?
Since September 2018, I have participated every week in a writing workshop organized by the Haute-Saintonge media library in my town of Jonas, in the south of Charente-Maritime.
And, this, free of charge. I consider myself happy that this activity has existed for two and a half years and continues in a good atmosphere.
I joined this workshop because I had already started this blog and I wanted to give myself a more constrained framework to start writing stories, and not just articles for my blog. I needed a lever to push myself to invent my own stories. It really gives me wings!
In this Jonas writing workshop, we write at home, at our ease, How to get a Wikipedia page approved at our speed and we read our production when we meet on Thursday afternoon, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Each week, our animator gives us a different constraint and we compose, as we wish, a text of our choice according to this constraint, or not for that matter. We try to limit ourselves to one page.
At the time of writing this article, I have therefore written 17 texts under duress. In this case, twice, I wrote a text with the same character Amanda.
The creation of my character Amanda
For the following week, the host François gave us the following instructions: “That was it. Nothing more. The sound of the thaw”.
These pieces of sentences are taken from John Burnside’s latest book, “The Sound of the Thaw”.
By the time I receive this new writing instruction, I am finishing a novel written by Rosalind Laker, “Snow Dreams”.
In this novel that I loved to read, Parisian seamstresses accept the offer of the Empress of Russia to go and exercise their talents at the imperial court, mainly in Saint Petersburg. The plot takes place during the period of Louis XV.
The protagonists arrive in the middle of January and discover the Russian thaw in April. I have the idea of writing around the city of Saint Petersburg, unknown to me by the way. I know Moscow and Kyiv a little bit, but not this Venice of the Baltic.
This story in this novel inspires me. I have my story! I invent a character, which I thought unique for a single story at the start.
Here is my story:
Amanda had loved this country of Russia since the first time she set foot there in the spring of 1978. It was far away. It was during the Brezhnev era. It was a two-week school trip with her Russian teacher and her classmates learning Russian like her in high school.
An enchantment. Memories are full of memories. An adorable person was always ready to help. A revelation.
She had promised herself on her return from this trip that she would one day reside in Russia. But, the vicissitudes of life had made her wait until the age of 40 to fulfill her old dream, which had remained buried in her for all these years.
Amanda, therefore, embarked on retraining and passed her diploma in FLE – French as a foreign language. She didn’t wait long to get the job of her dreams. The Alliance Françoise was offering a place in Saint Petersburg for five years. She jumped at the chance and immediately accepted this new life that was offered to her.
She knew, from the history between France and Russia, that French remained a respected and appreciated language, even if it was now less taught. But, the former capital of the tsars had a number of literary circles where everyone spoke in the language of Molière. She would know how to make friends and create solid ties in this country that was to become her own.
So she landed one beautiful January morning on the land of her dreams, in the dead of winter. She had arrived before the celebration of Orthodox Christmas, around mid-January. He had a few days left to walk around and discover the languid city under its heavy blanket of snow and ice. She was amazed from all points of view. The city sparkled with a thousand lights, its domes offered their golden spires to the starry sky. The pastel tones of many of the houses gave the town an air of coated candy.
Amanda was ready to accept a lot of things, even the harsh cold of this Versailles-like city, which she was not used to. The banks of the Neva and the canals crossing the city were all frozen over and the skaters were having a blast.
The discovery of St. Petersburg struck him as a revelation. She had seen it first at night, then in the wan winter light of the Gulf of Finland, in these arctic latitudes.
Amanda was bearing the brunt of the Russian winter but had not retreated. She put up with it, well wrapped up in furs that she had bought in a market.
She was also surprised to realize that spring was much later than in France, which she expected. It is commonly said that this part of the world has only two seasons: winter and summer. Hopefully, she was hoping the snow would melt around mid-April. But, unless it was exceptionally gentle, it would still remain for several weeks in the hollows of the shadowy areas, and the waterways would continue to carry blocks of ice.
Amanda loved to walk along the banks of the Imperial River. That morning, under a pale spring sun, in the company of a colleague, she was pacing the banks of the Neva, when, suddenly, she heard an enormous noise which made her jump. She thought the storm was rumbling. Looking around, she saw a clear, pure sky, devoid of any threat.
Her walking companion then explained to her that the noise she had heard and which had frightened her because she was unknown, was the noise made by the blocks of ice in the river which began to detach from each other and which clashed with the current, to finish their course in the Gulf of Finland.
“That was it,” Amanda reacts, reassured. Nothing more. The sound of the thaw”.
In this city, everything took on extraordinary proportions. Nature dictated its laws, even more harshly than anywhere else.
And yet, this country had already left its mark on Amanda.
Reactions to my story
The participants liked my text and would have liked a sequel. They specify, that thanks to my text, they traveled there in the winter cold of northern Russia and that they were there just listening to me.
I am happy that this text liked because I liked to imagine it, without any false modesty on my part.
In view of the reactions, it gives me the idea to write a sequel to this beginning of the story, or even several episodes. On reflection, I tell myself that I could write a short story with this basic idea, even a short novel. The idea tempts me quite a bit because I have something to do with life in Russia. I like to Wikipedia editors from a real base, then to transform the evolution of the character at will
I could complete my collection with my impressions of my trip to this country in which I plan to travel during the summer of 2020. Yes, I am planning myself well in advance, but it is necessary to save money and get organized.
An opening of perspective
I think I have a very interesting idea, which could lead to an end that I did not think of when writing the first text.
Reading Rosalind Laker’s novel gave me wings. I have found the styling to be simple, approachable, and the story takes the reader into the world of 17th century Russia, with a beautiful love story in the background.
I feel like I’m starting to find my style, getting better, and struggling less in my descriptions. I dare to write what I want. I like the stories in which the characters evolve, change their life, and discover new things.
There is undoubtedly a lot of me in these ingredients. I like to travel, to discover new things to evolve, to imagine that I am changing my life in my head. But, Amanda, my character, is not me at all. She’s got a little bit of me. No doubt she realizes that I did not know how to do: change my life and go far away to live something else!
Why Amanda’s first name? This first name came to me like that, without really looking. I had to find a name for my character. I thought it sounded good!
At this time, this woman does not have a last name. It will come in due course. I’m going to invent a life for him!
As a conclusion
The text I have proposed to you is one of the two that I wrote about Amanda’s life.
I frankly want to write him a complete life. I think I’ll write a short one-page sequel each week and put the episodes back in chronological order – maybe.
In this story, Amanda changes her life, but she did have a life before. I will have to tell them why she wants to leave France or flee this country. What childhood did she have? What does she remember from her childhood? What happened to make her change her life at a specific age? How is she physically? What were and what are his current tastes? Why did she choose Russia among so many other countries?
I will have to build the story well and invent a life for my main character. I will have to build my character.