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Our October Author Interviews--10/4 Wendy Tyson, 10/11 Marilyn Levinson, 10/18 Earl Javorski, 10/25 Linda Lovely. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

CREATING CHARACTERS


I’m almost finished with the ninth book in my Catherine Jewell Mystery Series. It’s my February book, “Red Roses for Valentine’s Day,” and soon I’ll be planning my tenth book that will take place in March. In my last book I’d had the ideas and plot in my mind for some time, but I still needed new characters. Since I write a series taking place in a small town, many former characters will return, but I need new ones, too.

 Soon I’ll start making up biographies for those new characters. How big a part they play determines how long his or her biography will be. The murderer needs a biography, too.  I need to know what drives that person to commit murder. I don’t write thrillers with psychopaths. My murderer is often, although not always, a normal, even a nice person, but something drives him or her to murder. It might be the victim standing in the way of something he or she desires, or  feels threatened in some way by the victim. Even with only one murderer per book, I do need to bring in new characters to populate my town of Portage Falls, similar to the Cabot Cove in the series Murder She Wrote. I’ve already killed off seven plus eliminated the murderers as they populate the state’s prisons.  
My brother at one of our sibling evenings.

I’ve based a few characters on people I know although never the murderer. A character I love, Ed, is based on my late brother, Jerry. Ed looks like my brother, is the avid gardener and an intelligent well-read person. But they diverge in other areas, especially in their wives.
My sister-in-law is a delightful person nothing like Ed’s wife, although after she read my first book she kept insisting she was. She has a delightful sense of humor.

Catherine, my protagonist, shares the same name as my youngest sister, and like my sister she's a botanist and a  blonde. Other than that their only comparison is being smart, curious and nice.






The first thing she asked after my son died,
in my arms  was how many breaths he took.

Millie is a cook at Elmwood Gardens, the large public gardens important in my series. She’s based on my mother-in-law, now deceased. Millie is extremely nosy and often asks inappropriate questions. She loves gossip and because of this she often unknowingly gives Catherine and the reader clues or red herrings.

Another character is based on a teacher I knew combined with a woman I didn’t know personally, but lived close to where I taught who was crazy about squirrels and put out signs warning people to drive carefully because of squirrels. This character became a kindergarten teacher who loved squirrels, but looked like the teacher I described even though she didn’t teach kindergarten. I gave her the name of “Polly Popcorn,” who had changed her name to go along with teaching kindergarten. Another character my readers like.




Grace is an amazing person. I'm really impressed by her.

A character I added recently is a woman in her nineties named Grace Meadows. I not only kept
her name, with her permission, I moved her, her house and greenhouse to Portage Falls. I met her over a year ago when a friend of my sister’s took us to meet her. She’s an avid reader of mysteries and keeps a three-ring binder with the name of each mystery author on a page and lists each book and a brief synopsis of the book. I’ve been sending her my books since I’ve met her and once she reads them she donates them to the library. I’ve visited her several more times and plan on going again once her garden is in bloom.

Other characters are mostly created from my imagination with sometimes a quirk or a certain look of someone I know or maybe from a conversation I’ve overheard in a restaurant or someplace else between two strangers. Also, the human interest stories in the newspaper or magazines are a good source of characters. So are obituaries.  In Twinsburg, Ohio, there is a yearly gathering of twins. One of the awards given is for the oldest pair of twins. So in my third book, I have elderly twins, a brother and sister, who constantly bicker.

Names are easy. I pluck them from the newspaper, books, magazines or people I know – a first name here, a last name there.  Once I had my cousin and her husband visiting a workshop at Elmwood Gardens where Catherine works. Another time I gave a character the last name of a woman in one of my book club. One of the members insisted on having her name in one of my books. She didn’t care if she was a victim or the murderer. When she read the book she was not pleased. She said, “You not only made me black, you made me old.” A friend of mine also in the book club thought that was funny. It didn’t matter to this woman the character I gave her name to is delightful as is the character’s sister. A lot of readers like them. So do I.

Creating characters is fun. It’s one of my favorite aspects of writing. Maybe it’s because I’m curious about people. I want to know more about them. What’s their story? What makes them who they are? Of course, there are people I meet I don’t care to know better.  That doesn’t mean
I can’t use what attributes I don’t like in a character.  A book needs well rounded characters, those who are a mixture of positive and negative elements with the characters we like best usually leaning more towards positive. But unlike the old-time westerns, no one today wears a white hat signifying they’re a good guy or a black hat signifying they’re the evil-doer. And neither should our characters although I have to admit sometimes I do make the villain not such a nice person, but I usually add some other characters that are equally unpleasant characters.

Another thing I like about creating characters I use characters to bring social issues into my books. I have a young man with Down’s syndrome, an autistic man, a couple who are gay, and all are characters judged favorably by my readers. I’ve brought in prejudice, spousal abuse, and other issues. It’s my way of not only writing a book that people will hopefully enjoy, but also maybe making a difference in other ways. I recently read that readers tend to be more tolerant of others.

If you are a writer, how do you create your characters?

If you’re not a writer, what kind of characters would you like to create? 

11 comments:

Jim Jackson said...

Gloria -- I’m a pantser, so the characters initially appear when I need them. In the rewriting process I merge characters, add depth, quirks, and whatever else the story needs.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I'm pretty much a pantser, too, so not all of my characters are planned before hand. But once I get them, I do write a bio for them so when they return I know what they look like and what particular quirks they have.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I try to keep my fictional world to a few major characters, but it's so much fun to introduce new ones!

Anonymous said...

Hi Gloria, I loved this blog today. Creating believable characters is so important and I hope your good information helps new writers. One of my favorite things when naming a character is to read through a book of Baby Names. Sometimes the meaning of the name or its origin can also include inspiration for the character. The main characters in your series have become like a small town family to me. I enjoy them so much. Good job! ~ Laura

Warren Bull said...

I run across people with interesting traits and I incorporate their traits into characters. So I meet my characters in daily life.

Gloria Alden said...

Margaret, I mostly keep a few major characters, but because I've on my tenth book now, I need to add new and interesting characters.

Thank you, Laura. Now if only you'll get back to writing that book of yours.

Warren, that's a good way to make characters believable.

Shari Randall said...

My main characters just appeared, demanding to be let into the story!
In one story I've given the name of one of the sweetest ladies I know to a very pushy and unethical reporter in my story. They couldn't be more different. I hope it makes my friend laugh when she reads it. Actually, I may warn her before she reads it.

KM Rockwood said...

I have a question-and-answer form I use for major characters, and keep a copy to which I can refer (one of my worries is that someday a character named Leslie will appear as a sincere, bright black teenage boy in the beginning of a book and somehow morph in to bitchy middled-aged white woman by the end)

Most of my characters are based on composites of people I have known. Sometimes I know where they originated and sometimes I really can't pin down the influences.) But like Shari, they appear fully formed with their own set of interests and demands, and often refuse to behave as I think they should for the book.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I don't spend as much time on my short story characters or ones that won't return as I do on those in my series. I hope your friend finds it funny.

KM, that's why I keep a three-ring binder of my characters so I can check that. I also have index cards with all the first names I've used in alphabetical order and the last names in alphabetical order, too. Most of the time it works, but then I realized I'd used Sally twice, however it worked out because the first Sally was the deceased wife of one of my characters.

Most of my characters are based on composites, too, or ones I just imagine, and like you, I never quite know what they're going to do or not do. Sometimes someone I'd planned as the
victim or the murderer, I decide I don't want him or her to be that one. In one of my book, I'd planned for the murderer to be an older teenager or early twenties and had the reason for him being the murderer, and then I decided I liked him too much.

Linda Thorne said...

I really enjoyed this. I actually use my memories of real people for the murderer in my short stories and also in my first book and 2nd work-in-progress. They are normally from way back in my past and some are no longer living, but I have so much fun taking a real not-so-nice person and using him/her for a "bad guy." It sure makes it easier than developing a character from scratch.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, that's an interesting way to create the murderers in your stories and books. I don't
base mine on any real living or dead people, maybe because memories of them don't stay with
me for any length of time, or they are such really evil people that I don't t want them in
my small town.