Monday, 2 June 2014

Book Review - The Red House (Mark Haddon).... and looking at writing characters

I've just finished reading The Red House by Mark Haddon and again I am writing my review here because it has made me think about the writing process.

I have to say that when I started the book I struggled to get a handle on it because Haddon flicks from character to character so quickly - in this case a family get together for a holiday in a country house - a brother and sister, their respective spouses and their children. Haddon writes from each person's view point. I decided that I need a longer period of time reading to get into the book,. This is what I did and then things began to make more sense and the characters came alive with all their hang-ups, secrets and prejudices. What I liked about the book was how Haddon got into the mind of each character, what they did, what they thought, even down to the basic everyday stuff. The characters ranged from an eight year old boy, three teenagers and their parents who are in their forties. He understood how each ticked and how each came to terms with different aspects of their own lives and those around them.

In week five of Start Writing Fiction we are looking at how to develop our characters. This has come at the right time coinciding with having read Mark Haddon's book and my own attempts in characterisation in my novel. I've realised that my main character has much more there that I can use to bring her alive. I don't know why it's just dawned on me because I've read loads of books in the past that delve deeply into the mind of characters but Haddon's book was a light bulb  moment. I've found his book really helpful and this week on the course should also get me thinking more about what I can do to flesh out a character. I am looking forward to it.

In The Red House, Haddon doesn't neatly wrap everything up at the end of the story but you have a sense that the week spent together as a family has changed each person. They themselves have developed and for some they have come to an understanding about themself for the first time. The family domestic scenario is an interesting one, specially when you add a second marriage, an affair, religion, sex and questions about sexuality. There's a lot in this novel to unpick and to question.

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