Never Let Me Go – Discovering your character’s secrets

I read a review with Kazuo Ishiguro from the The Observer (February 2005).  His novel Never Let Me Go has come to the fore again now that it has been made into a movie starring Carry Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Nightley. 

I was thrilled to read how well he articulated an experience that I’ve also had with my own writing. Below is an excerpt of the interview by Tim Adams of The Observer.


His character “Kathy [H] herself first surfaced in Ishiguro’s notes almost 15 years ago when he had a sense of a book about a group of young people with a seventies atmosphere. ‘They hung around and argued about books,’ he says. ‘I knew there was this strange fate hanging over them, but I couldn’t work out exactly what it was.’ …It was only recently, when he was listening on the radio to various programs about biotechnology, that the particular fate of his sketchy students became clear to him.

I’ve found this happens in my writing too. I wrote a scene over a year ago in which the POV character, Elsie, felt someone watching her and she recognised something about the person’s gait and was sure she would figure out who it was. It wasn’t until last night when I was finally writing the difficult penultimate scene from the chapter that she (we) realised who it was. I’ve tried several time to guess and even removed the comment in one draft because I was so frustrated at not knowing who it was. Sometimes our characters don’t reveal their secrets when we want them to, maybe only when they have to.

I’ve only just finished re-reading  Never Let Me Go and I found it even better the second time around. It is a fascinating book but it could be construed as dangerous; it could lead an unsuspecting mind to places where they either don’t want to go, or cannot escape from.

The movie posters describe it as the “Best Novel of the Decade” and I cannot disagree.

The feature film of the same name, written for the big screen by Alex Garland and directed by Mark Romanek, has been released in the UK and USA and scheduled for release in Australia in March 2011.

So what do you think?

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