Last week I talked briefly about characters and how often, in my case, they don't learn from the events of a story, although it may affect them in other ways. I'd like to go a little further into this topic in response to my experience with writing my book this week.
Clearly, the more we write about a character, the more we get to know about them. Or at least that's the idea. And we might not always like what we find out. To us, they seem like real people - or they should do if they're to be at all convincing. And all real people are a mass of contradictions, shortcomings, insecurities and prejudices, with usually the odd redeeming feature in there somewhere. (OK, maybe not in every case.)
But above all, real people tend to be intractable buggers. I don't know how much anyone has the power to change. In terms of fiction, this might go against certain rules, but I'd rather my stories were believable. What's more interesting to me is how unpredictable people can be, and it's fascinating to observe this in our characters. Just because their nature isn't changeable, it doesn't mean they can't surprise you. After all, you're just getting to know them.
My work in progress features a woman as the protagonist. Some might consider this a brave move, but so far everything I've written has been from a male perspective, and I wanted to try something different. It might be a complete disaster, but we'll find out. I'm about 11000 words in, and I'm just at a point where this character has got herself into a bizarre situation and I don't know how she's going to deal with it. How the story pans out will reveal more about her character, I guess, and hopefully something of her motivation. She might turn out to be completely psychotic.
How about you? Do you know your characters before you start writing, or do you find out about them during the process? Can you ever know everything about them? Do you like them? Tell me all about it.