Visualising Backgrounds

Whether it is a thriller, romance, lifestyle or detective story, your character has to behave in a realistic and believable way. In order to do this, they must be seen to be the sort of person who would opt for the course of action you have in mind for them.

In her novel, Hush-a-Bye, author Susan Moody draws vivid word-pictures of her characters, all the while giving hints that their upbringing and backgrounds will have a profound influence on how they will react in the future.

In the following description of Harriet, the central character, there is a clear implication that parts of her childhood which she feels made little impact on her will prove to have been highly influential in her reaction to the situations in which she eventually finds herself:

Harriet's mother had died when she was a baby. The fact of being an orphan had not, Harriet believed, affected her, apart from imbuing her with a spurious kind of glamour both in her own eyes and those of her school-friends. Most of these possessed the requisite number of parents; in other respects their lives and Harriet's were almost identical, their houses similar, the strictures placed upon them by adults the same. Growing up in a leafy, well-heeled London suburb, the loss of a parent by death was almost the only evidence any of them had seen of the misfortunes which could befall unluckier souls than themselves.

Harriet's father is a remote, undemonstrative figure and the influence of her relatively loveless early years is an integral part of the development of her character, particularly when, quite late in the book, her own baby is kidnapped.

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