October 22, 2013 by Pierre the Author
I remember my mother saying, as I left for the first day at my new school, “Make some new friends today”. I was a shy teenager and didn’t make friends easily, so it was a relevant thing for her to encourage. What I didn’t anticipate, and I’m sure my mother never had in mind, was that developing the main character of my new novel “The Dream Chasers” would be like finding a new friend!
The theory of writing says that your characters must be three-dimensional – they must be life-like and believable. They must have values, ambitions and goals that guide them through the unfolding story. It is crucial for the characters to have a background story, have relationships with family and friends, have conflict with others and within themselves …
Sounds thoroughly normal, doesn’t it?
Layer upon layer, relationship upon relationship, I constructed the life story of the hero, Pieter van Scheer – his family background, what his parents were like, his relationship with his older brother who would inherit the family business, his rebellious attitude and conflict with his father, his wild behaviour with a group of like-minded rich boys, how the death of his father brought him to his senses and was the beginning of a life change.
I found myself immersed inside the head of this fictitious person, trying to understand what made him tick, how he would react in various situations, how he might grow as a person over the timeframe of the story. I brainstormed all sorts of story scenarios with my wife, to see what she thought Pieter might do in those situations. Her insights were particularly helpful when it came to his relationship with his wife, Cornelia, who is the antithesis of Pieter’s impetuous, aggressive nature. Her calm thoughtful approach is often the saving of Pieter when he over-reacts.
Suddenly one day, I came to the point where I felt that I really knew him; he was longer a faceless avatar. Pieter had become a friend, someone about whom I know personal and embarrassing secrets, whose personality is a known quantity, but whose reactions in new life circumstances are still to be discovered. It was an exciting moment when I realised that my friend Pieter will still surprise me as the story unfolds!
Especially as the story line of “The Dream Chasers” is loosely based on the experiences of my own ancestor, coming to this point in my relationship with Pieter has changed my feeling about writing the story – it is now more a biography of a friend than a fictional novel.
Go to The Dream Chasers main page for a full synopsis of the story