Monday, November 5, 2012

The Character Who Will Not Leave

All of you, I'm sure, have read a book so exquisitely crafted that at the story's end the main character seems to be shadowing you. You feel like asking him to sit down and tell you more. This can't be all, you say. I just finished "Old Filth," a highly praised 2005 novel by British writer, Jane Gardam. It could easily be a young adult book, so I'll use it as the subject for my comments. Gardam's work encompases Edward Feather's long life, starting at the end, then switching to the beginning, with his birth in Malaya, then to his miserable seven-year old existence in Wales, then to teenage years, back and forth, each chapter revealing a piece of the puzzle Feathers was. Nevertheless, it is a perfect page turner; only in the last pages of the novel are the multitude of mysteries that make up Feather's life resolved. What I'm sure Gardam did prior to writing was to create a very thorough biography (not just a character sketch) of Edward Feathers, and probably biographies of all the story's characters. Her meticulous character development paid off. I'm afraid I have been careless, writing and hoping my characters catch my reader's attention with minimal effort on my part. I could improve. Vastly.


  1. Yes, what a gift to be able to create memorable characters. Of course that gift is the result of hard work! Stanley Yelnats in HOLES comes to mind.

    I've read some other Jane Gardam titles. I'll have to look for this one. Thanks for writing about it.

  2. Writing memorable characters is such a challenge! How wonderful that you found a book to provide you with such inspiration! Good luck achieving your goal!

  3. I get stuck on plot more than character. I love getting inside my characters heads, thinking like they think.