Blogging in Character: A Good Idea?
Last week I posted news that I’m writing a blog from the point of view of one of my characters, which garnered a fair amount of interest, especially as an exercise in finding your character’s voice.
A week later I have more to share with you. Here’s what I’ve found out:
A micro-blog is easier than a traditional blog
Using a traditional blog as your platform has three strikes against it:
- It’s an investment in time and writing power that is perhaps best reserved for your manuscript.
- Because you’re writing ‘long’, it’s easy for the character’s voice to become too studied and ‘novelistic’.
- You run the danger of giving away too much about the story in advance of publication.
Micro-blogging with a provider like Tumblr.com is a really nice compromise between tweeting in your character’s POV and blogging long, involved posts.
It’s more like a scrapbook of impressions, photos, videos, quotes, and bits of text that your protagonist finds fascinating or worth sharing. You’re looking through his or her eyes at the world he or she sees. All the little details, niggles and snarks.
If you’re writing a teenage protagonist, as I am, then it’s a much more appropriate form than a traditional blog. Not many teenagers blog, but lots of older ones micro-blog. The reason? They have over-loaded lives and a traditional blog is a commitment. It also takes more time to read, so their friends are less likely to follow a blog, but will follow a micro-blog because it’s quick and fun.
Find the look that your protagonist would choose for themselves
Choose a theme for the blog that reflects your character’s preoccupations, tastes or location. Mine lives at a university that exists outside of time and space, so I’ve chosen a steampunky, sepia-toned theme that doesn’t have any specific time but certainly doesn’t look modern. In doing so I’ve identified the first problem with her blog. I’m not sure what her passion is. I know it’s books, and she lives in a place that’s full of them but isn’t supposed to read them. That’s a great inherent conflict. But what kind of books is she specifically interested in? Writing her blog has made me realize I don’t know. Is she into science, alchemy, or engineering? I need to make a decision if the novel is going to feel real.
Which Character Should I Choose?
This is an interesting question, because the first impulse is to give the blog to the main character, right? But what if he’s not the chatty sort? What if blogging would be anathema to him? What if he’s a man of action and would never be caught dead blogging?
In that case, maybe there’s a minor character who can offer observations on the key players without interfering with the storyline. I could have chosen Beckett, the porter of the University in my novel, whose office is by the college gate, making him privy to everyone’s comings and goings. But I felt instinctively that he is a traditional man, not a blogger, and that secrets are his stock in trade. He wouldn’t be sharing information unless there was a green handshake involved.
So I turned to Rowena, the college scout (or servant) and my main character’s future love interest. It seemed entirely plausible to me that Rowena would keep a diary in which she would vent her frustration about being a servant at a university when she’d rather be one of the scholars. She watches everyone with envy, and has access to their private rooms so she can clean them. Perfect, intimate access to a fascinating world rife with conflict and jealousies.
What should my character blog about?
Keep to daily observations by your character, those of a personality living in a certain situation, with its inherent highs, lows and frustrations over relationships with other characters. Remember that your purpose is to entertain. The Science of Deduction by Sherlock Holmes (from the Masterpiece TV show with Sherlock in the 21st century) includes clues, case files and hidden messages, for instance, providing an interactive extension of the show’s stories to keep fans entertained and engaged between episodes.
Should I allow comments?
Depends what the purpose of the blog is, don’t you think? On Sherlock’s blog, fans respond to his requests for help with clues (which are veiled contests for giveaways), and on Dr Watson’s blog the comments are supplied by other characters in the series, creating an extra dimension of meta-reality to the blog, along with opportunity for further information and intrigue, but the comments are closed to the public at large.
Who are you doing this for?
If you are doing it for yourself, to find your character’s voice, passions, viewpoint, attitude, then maybe you want to make the blog private, rather than broadcast it to the world just yet. You can password protect Tumblr blogs so only the people you give a password to can access it.
Too public, too soon?
Be careful. If you’re blogging because you’re excited about your characters and your story and can’t wait for publication to share them with the outside world, you may do better to concentrate on finishing your book and getting it published, because there’s a danger that you’ll give a way too much.
It may be best to keep the blog private, or password protected, until you’re book is out. Then you can use it to extend the reading experience for your fans. An article about a serialized online novel that employed social media to extend the world of the novel into the virtual world of social media can be found here: My Darklyng. But note, this was done concurrently with publication, not before.
Broadcasting your ideas far and wide ahead of publication has dangers you should be aware of:
- Copyright issues: Of course, a blog that you own is completely under your control, so the rights remain with you, but what if someone copies and pastes your content elsewhere? You have little control over that.
- If you are doing the blog to drum up a readership for your book then you’ll want the blog to be public, but don’t add content or ideas that relate to the book until the book is published.
Doing it right
If your goal is to build a readership ahead of publication, choose a central subject, or theme, that has broad public appeal, regardless of your book. If you find a readership based on the theme of your novel, then there’s a good chance they’ll also be interested in reading a novel on the same theme, especially if they have connected with you personally through your blog. Building a readership is a worthwhile way to spend your non-writing time, pre-publication.
For the micro-blog for my novel, A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS, I’m not worrying about being in character, I’m speaking to the theme of my novel. Should we ignore warnings of the dangers that our innate human curiousity may lead us to?
There, I gather all the warnings or examples of curiosity that I can find, or bios of people who were famously curious, or macabre (like Edward Gorey), or flouted societal rules (like Oscar Wilde or Lord Byron).
I may invite other bloggers to post their own examples of warnings. In this way I may be able to build an audience for the novel before it comes out.
Got a question?
It’s hard to make any specific suggestions to you without knowing your characters and your story, but do feel free to leave me comments with any questions you may have.
I will tell you one thing—it’s a lot of fun! But don’t forget what you’re writing it for. Your book comes first.
- Rowena’s Diary (from a secondary character’s point of view)
- A Warning To The Curious (micro-blogging on a theme)
Later, if it looks like they’ll become a permanent part of my book promotion, I’ll purchase the domain names and host them myself, but for now I’ll save the pennies and buy printing paper with it. 🙂
Share your links
Hey, if you end up setting up a micro-blog or any other kind of online presence for one of your characters, come back and add a link to the comments below so we can all admire your work!
Here are some character blogs I’ve found around the web:
- Baltazar Fish Egypt Diaries
- From the Abbey to the Otherworld
- Word Weaves
- Shay Doran’s Shadow Days (absolutely brilliant!)
- The Science of Deduction by Sherlock Holmes (from the TV show with Sherlock in the 21st century)
- The Personal Blog of Dr John Watson