Where Do My Characters Come From? (Z Minor)

Where Do My Characters Come From?
Z. Minor
Author of Historical Romantic & Contemporary Suspense Novels.

First I have to have a title for my novel and determine what year the story is going to take place before I can think of any characters and their names. Names have to fit the time period especially historical novels. I have discovered doing research over the years, people and their actions haven’t changed much. Since the beginning of time people have loved, hated, cheated, and killed for numerous reasons. The landscape and style of clothes may change, but people and their motives not so much.

Some bestselling novel I have recently read came from recent headlines. Newspapers, newscasts, and magazines not only supply plot ideas but names, character’s motives, and locations for stories.

Once I have settled on a main plot. I can start thinking about the characters who will have an active role and help to shape the outcome of the story. They can be from any walk of life, rich, poor, male, female, and of course children. Animals add another dimension and will also need a name.

Character names come from baby books. Phone book are especially great for last names. If I hear an interesting name I write it down for a later date. I usually only start writing a story with the names for my main characters.

Juletta, my husband’s grandmother’s middle name, is the name of my contemporary heroine in “Artful Deception.” One of Juletta’s friends in the story is named Ray. She has known him since grade school, and calls him Raymo throughout the story. I believe this adds a personal touch just like everyday life.

I do an interview with my main characters and some secondary characters, but only if they appear throughout the entire novel. The depth of the interview depends on how important they are to the story. Some of my main character interviews are done before I start writing a new story and some are done no later than three chapters into the book. By then I know how important the character is going to be and if the story is worth continuing to write. Some interviews I do when a character appears as I am writing a scene.

The interviews usually cover their childhood or some aspects of it, their likes and dislikes. How they got to where they are, when they appear in the story. Lastly what are their dreams for the present and future? In some cases, I want to know how they plan to get where they want to go. Any information that will help me to give the characters added dimension. Most of the time I don’t use many of the facts I garner from the interviews and the reader will never know them. However, I need them to create a believable character.

Names for secondary characters I find when I need a name after I have written them into an important scene. Actions of characters I take from everyday life. Historical newspapers, like “The London Times”, has given me insights into everyday life during its publication. There are many books that show the life and time of a given time period. There are also dictionaries such as “Dictionary of the Old West” 1850 to 1900 which can help with dialogue.

Names are interesting to me and I have found them while on vacation, reading a book, and meeting new people. My characters actions are many times from something I have seen, read about, remembered from way back when, or heard second hand. I am a people watcher as I think most writers are.

So Beware!! Your actions and your name just might just find their way into one of my books.


Joan Vincent said...

Character naames come after I imagine the character. Like you I find them in various places. One of the best though is the obituary page.
Good post.