Please contact E. B. Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for May: (5/4) Linda Norlander, (5/11) Connie Berry, (5/18) Mary Keliikoa, (5/22) Annette Dashofy, and (5/25) Rosalie Spielman.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
I'm ready to begin a new book. I've had the ideas and plot in my mind for some time, but I still need characters. Since I write a series taking place in a small town, many former characters will return, but I need some new ones, too. Soon I'll start making up biographies for those new ones. How big a part the character plays determines how long the biography will be. The murderer always needs a long biography. I need to know what drives that person to commit murder. I don't write thrillers with psychopaths. My murderer is generally a normal even nice person, but something drives him or her to murder. It might be the victim stands in the way of something they desire, or they feel threatened by the victim in some way. Of course, there's only one murderer per book, but I do need to bring in new characters to populate my town of Portage Falls. I've already killed off seven plus eliminated the murderers. After all, I can't decimate my small town like Cabot Cove in the series Murder She Wrote.
I've based a few characters on people I know although never the murderer. A character I love, Ed, is based on my brother, Jerry. Ed looks like my brother and is the avid gardener and intelligent well-read person he was. But they diverge in other areas, especially in their wives. My sister-in-law is a delightful person nothing like Ed's wife.
Catherine, my protagonist, shares the same name as my youngest sister, and she's a botanist and blond. Other than that their only similarity is being smart, curious and nice.
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.
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 between two strangers. Also, the human interest stories in the newspaper or magazines are a good source for characters. So are obituaries. I'm still thinking of how I can use the obituary of a woman with the only thing said about her was "She loved to clean." In Twinsburg, Ohio, there is a yearly gathering of twins. One of the awards given is for the oldest pair of twins. Interesting. So in my third book, I have elderly twins, a brother and sister (Ira and Ida), who live together and are constantly bickering.
Names are easy. I pluck them from the newspaper, books, magazines and people I know - a first name here, a last name there.
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 about them in creating a character. A book needs well rounded characters, those who are a mixture of positive and negative elements with those 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 of a black hat signifying they're the evil doer. And neither should our characters.
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?