Since Edith talked about setting yesterday, I thought I would talk a bit about characters today, and how I create them. Or how they find me.
When I write a story, I think of the plot first. For instance, a woman killed her husband, and is being confronted by his mistress the day after the funeral. That rattles around in my brain for a while, and then it comes time to write it down. And when I do that, the characters start to pop. So that is when I start to build up their bio–pick a name, maybe pick a photo of someone so I can describe some details. I read a book once that suggested a really in depth character bio before writing the story. I tried, but it doesn’t work that way (for me). I need to write around them for a while, and let them tell me their stories.
I know, I know. That sounds a little nuts, doesn’t it? But that is how it works. They start telling me what they eat, what they wear, their size, their shape, their housekeeping habits. The more I write, the more the details. I may not find out their love for blue cheese and chocolate paninis until page 200, but once I find out, I write it down and add it back at the beginning later. [Note: Scrivener is a great for this. It has a character bio form that lives on the left hand side of the screen, and is a repository for details. By keeping that up to date, you never have to wonder what color his car is again.] The more I write, the richer the details. And they have a different impact on the plot itself.
Have you ever seen the play Six Characters in Search of an Author? I am currently working on a new manuscript. I have left version 23 of a very different novel behind. But the characters aren’t going quietly into that good night. As I work with my new characters, and get to know them, my Trevorton characters keep showing up. I have decided to keep them separate, just in case I ever go back to that series. But I find it interesting that they keep rattling around my imagination. Am I doomed to have them live there forever?
All of my blog mates are writing series, which means they have a whole cast of characters to create. This is what people love about series mysteries–getting to know a community. All of these characters have their own backstories, and will likely play roles in future books. Maybe significant roles–as either victim or murderer. Deciding who to make a recurring character, and who will be a one off, is an interesting choice. I just wonder if it is the choice of the author, or of the character herself?
Writers, how do you create your characters? Readers, how do you feel about series characters? What makes you want to get to know them?