Monday, November 08, 2010

Back On the Blog Chain: Where Do Characters Come From?

This round, Abby wants to learn about our characters:

Where do your characters come from? And once they've been introduced to you, how do you get to know them?

Kate posted before me, and Eric will post tomorrow.

Unfortunately for me, if there's such a thing as a Characters'R'Us store, I have yet to find it. I would say for me, characters tend to start with the original idea I get for a story. For example, when I came up with the idea for my novella "Move Over Ms. L.," I wanted to write about someone listening to the Beatles perform at the Cavern Club before they hit it big. I wanted a SF twist, so I came up with a time traveler from the future. I then started asking myself questions, such as "Why was this person go then and there?" and "Why was she in particular chosen for this mission?" Gradually, as I turned the idea over in my mind, the character of Joanna Lennon, the great-granddaughter of John Lennon who preferred science to rock'n'roll, came to mind. I don't often develop a character through directed questions the way I did for this particular story; more often, I look for people who might be involved in the particular story idea I have in mind and go from there, pre-writing in my thoughts as I think about characters and possible scenes for a story.

Another important source of characters for me is other characters. I've mentioned before in a previous blog chain post how my story ideas turn into family sagas. So after my first set of characters have their adventures, fall in love, and start families, I have to find something to do with their kids. My current projects, Across Two Universes and the sequel Catalyst in the Crucible, involve children of characters in "Move Over Ms. L." (I've de-Lennonized these books, so they're not direct sequels at this point. If I ever publish my novella, I'll have to decide if I want to use the original version or alter it to fit the other stories.)

I don't have a formal process for getting to know my characters. I don't normally write character sheets (I keep all that information in my head, though I did prepare a few character sheets as part of NaNoWriMo prep) or interview them. I get to know them as I play with them in my head, then as I write and revise. Sometimes they change considerably from draft to draft. I do feel part of me has to go into each character for me to make him or her authentic.

The phrasing of this question reminded me of the song "Getting to Know You," so I'll end this post by sharing this YouTube video from The King and I:

11 comments:

Carolyn V. said...

Sometimes I have to just sit down and start writing to know my characters. =)

writerchick6 said...

Nice! I wish I found a Characters R Us store!

Michelle H. said...

Characters R Us? I wonder how their pricing would be? Great answer!

Eric said...

Such an analytical and yet meandering way to deal with characters. And I mean that in the best way possible. It's really interesting how all of us create our characters. Great post!

nomadshan said...

As with your Joanna Lennon, the motivation behind a plot point often gives me my character.

Michelle McLean said...

ahhh I love that movie :D And oooo a Characters R Us...I'd definitely be making out a Christmas wish list LOL Great post!

Kat Harris said...

I'm not a shopper. The idea of Characters R Us makes me shudder.

:-)

lbdiamond said...

Characters R Us--that's great!

I don't do character sheets either. I think the organic nature of just writing the story helps me get to know how the character will react to certain things. Leaves a lot of work for me in the revision stage, but, eh, it works. ;)

Shaun Hutchinson said...

I tried to do character sheets a long time ago but I always found that it was better when my characters told me who they were rather than the other way around.

Cole Gibsen said...

I love character sheets. I can't write without them. But it could just be because my memory isn't what it used to be. lol

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

It's interesting how you want to follow your character's children and on and on. It's like they are real people who you don't want to lose touch with!

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