Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nice to Meet You


I love conceiving the idea for a new story. My mind starts churning over it, picking it apart and developing each piece until I’ve seen enough of it to know whether it has legs. Then, I shelve it for awhile.

Why?

Because I almost never come up with my protagonist at the same time as my story. Sometimes my main character comes to me within a few days, other times, well, let’s just say I’ve had an idea for an epic three-book saga on hold for months because the bulk of the cast of characters still remains a mystery.

I don’t create my characters so much as they stroll up out of the ether and introduce themselves to me. It’s the weirdest thing, one minute I’ve got no idea who my main character is, the next minute the person is standing right in front of me. Fully formed, complete with quirks and flaws and nice, developed back story.

Please don’t take this to mean I’m not still a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants and eschews outlines). Often, I’ll find that my characters have secrets I don’t find out about until I’m halfway through the story. That’s the best. It’s a blast to realize that this person you’ve been spending so much time with still has the capacity to surprise you.

I’m genuinely curious, how do you come up with your characters? Do you build them from scratch, piece them together as you go, or wait until they introduce themselves to you?

4 comments:

January Bain said...

Good blog! It's an amazing and complicated process, this conceiving and creating a book populated with characters.

The more I write the more wonderfully alive this process has become. Stories and characters are clamoring to be heard!!!

Big Mike said...

I create the theme for the story first, then visualize an actor or friend or someone I've seem in real life as the prime characters then adapt them to best fit the construct of the storyline.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2011)

Allison said...

My husband claims I'm one of the 10% who has to do things differently. I guess my writing is the same. I have the character, usually something general, I have to visit with him/her first before I know all the quirks and back story, by determining how he got to be the way he is at the beginning of the story. Then I decide what kind of story he wants, usually from a scene of something in his/her background. Then I outline. Strange, I know.

Liz Fountain said...

All of the above, Erika! Sometimes the character comes first, sometimes the plot... and always, always, the (best) characters pull some sort of surprise along the way. "Oh, you're going to fall in love with HIM?" I shake my head. But you know what? The character is always right. At least so far...

Liz