I see dozens of blog posts explaining the virtues of various tools in aiding a writer. Different programs for your computer or apps for your tablet. Keeping files of characters, mapping out stories and completing various assessment exercises about your characters. These things can certainly have their place, depending on your method of work and time available. But there is one tool we all need whatever the genre and whatever the age range of our readers.
I call it the Mill. It costs nothing except having an unkind mind to those creations we love. Brutal and effect, it transforms stories and ideas and is never exhausted. And all you have to do is place your prized, highly honed, precious character into it. And then crank the handle. And then crank it some more.
In my forthcoming novel, I have two main characters, Kirkgordon (ex-bodyguard, bored now with civilian life) and Austerley (pathological seeker of all things dark and disturbing). My first action was to threw them into the Mill and to work out what they really hated about each other. Faith, looks, success, knowledge, women all emerged as the rough edges on the mill stones.Then I cranked the handle again and the Mill threw up a woman into the mix. One they both hungered for. Although this caused a friction between the characters, it had to be augmented and so by cranking the handle again, another woman, a family, a lack of looks and a desire to control appeared.
By this stage we didn’t even have a nemesis. So the handle turns. Each character placed in the Mill to find out which millstones best ground them down. And the whole cavalcade becomes quite dark. That’s when the sifting begins. The traits that raise these characters above the situations come by sieving off their husk and finding the good flour underneath. It takes time. Sometimes it takes paper and pen. Other times a walk and a clear mind. But the result is a novel full of life and dynamic interaction that smells real to the reader.
So by all means take whatever tools that you may need but don’t forget this one. Use the Mill, produce stories that shows you have no regard for the characters’ welfare and watch them struggle. And your reader will identify and commit to these wonderful characters you hold precious deep within.
G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!