A few weeks ago, one of my readers e-mailed me. Her query was simple: how do you create the characters in your stories? That’s a simple question, right? Well for me, it’s a little more complex than simply creating a character. My goal as an author is to create characters readers will love!
Here’s the analogy I go through each and every time I sit down to develop the characters in my stories:
Suddenly, you receive a call with the news that your best friend has eloped with someone she’s only known for a couple of months. What would your reaction be? Would you slump to the nearest chair, flabbergasted and say, “Oh, my God, she did!” Or would you confidently say, “Sorry, you must be mistaken.”
Your answer will be based on how well you know your best friend.
Now I offered that scenario to you so you’d better understand the fundamental basis I use to create my characters. I take the time to become intimately acquainted with their personalities. And trust me, it’s time well spent. If at any point during the writing process I get off track with the direction my characters should go, I stop and get back in tune with them based on my complete and unequivocal knowledge of their persona.
My books are character driven. Long before I sit down to plot the story my characters will be featured in, there are three tools I use to truly understand them once they’ve given me a sneak peek into their persona: intuition, questions and habits.
Allowing my intuition to take over helps me to go far beyond merely providing readers with the physical descriptions of my characters, but helps me give the reader the same insight into the character that I have. In order words, I allow my characters to speak to me. This process helps me to get to know them as I would my best friend. I know how they dress, what they will say, and most importantly, what they will and will not do in certain situations. Also, I understand their strengths and weakness, what they fear and what event will spark them to rise up and fight like hell. Now is there a set amount of time for this process? Frankly, for me there isn’t. However, when I can honestly say I know my characters the way I know my best friend, then I’m ready to settle down and write the story.
Next are a few of the questions I pose to each of my characters:
• What do you want readers to know about your life?
• What do you want readers to know about you at the end of the story?
• How would you explain your greatest fears in life to readers?
• What way will you show readers how you’ll overcome the conflict in the story?
And finally, the ever important idiosyncrasies of my characters take center stage. Understanding this aspect of my characters helps me explain to readers the reasons for their quirky mannerisms or their annoying habits. I want readers to see my characters as actual people they want to love.
Now someone will read this and say, why bother going through this long, drawn-out process. And to those critics, my justification is simple: if I don’t love my characters enough to truly get to know them, who will?
Until next time – stay well and be blessed!