Pirate, Ghost, Pilot, Magician's Son (Melissa Robbins)

                Hmm, that title reminds me of the book Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but really they are all my characters. Where do they come from? Simple answer. All around me from all walks of life and sometimes I don’t even know where they come from.

               One character, named for an ancestor of mine, appeared in a dream, probably after researching her genealogy. She was a ghost who wanted my heroine to solve the murders of her family that happened decades before.

                When I was a teenager, I created a character, because of my sad crush on Jim Hawkins. Yes, that Jim from Treasure Island. I crushed on a book character! Annie was Captain Flint’s granddaughter trying to break free from his pirate legacy.

                My son and his heart condition inspired another hero. The two share similar features, but my hero is WAY naughtier than my son. As writers, it’s important to let our characters make mistakes and remember that some teen boys don’t think like middle-aged women who know it’s wrong to break into houses, etc. 

                Some of my characters exhibit traits I wish I had. The extroverts I wish I could be. One beautiful blonde springs to mind. Vivian can wrap any man around her finger with her looks and sultry voice. Her friend, one of my heroines, tries her best to be like Vivian and she fails miserably at it and always seems to get herself into even more trouble.

                Many of my characters are Royal Air Force pilots from WW2. What a bunch of naughty boys! These brave men loved every day like it could be there last. My Connor is like that. Doesn’t care what his commanding officers think or for that matter anyone else. Doing what he isn’t supposed to do is what usually keeps him safe. Connor almost never sleeps without a woman by his side, but does he do that because he loves women or to frighten away the nightmares?

                Another character I’m currently creating has a family life quite different from my own or one I grew up with. His father is a magician and his mother is his father’s assistant. The family travels across Europe mesmerizing the nobility and commoners with a great magic show in a time just before WW2 when the political atmosphere is crumbling around everyone. He goes from living out of a suitcase to staying in one spot. Where did he come from? I’m not 100% sure. His older brother is a classmate of another hero of mine. The first chapter (or maybe it's a prologue) came to life one very early morning when I lay in bed awake. 
  
              The most important thing about characters is to welcome them when they do appear. I swear I suffer from multiple personality disorder, but don’t all writers?

Where do your characters come from? by J Vincent



Happy Valentines!  A tad late as is this blog.  Well, maybe more than a tad but better very late than never.  I was dealing with some severe pain issues as the start of February.  That is improving at last. I find I can now concentrate enough again to string words into sentences. Or so we shall see.

Iaon Gruffudd  Bing Image
Characters can come upon me at any time--I write historicals so, male or female, they are alwaysdressed differently in my mind than in today’s world.  Redcoats and naval blue--what's not to love?

  Sometimes, like with Jamey Vincouer, they just appear fully fleshed and ready to do battle.  As with many in the Honour series I “knew” them when I saw them.  Sometimes this was just in my head.  But I do remember that with Samuel Goodchurch, aka “Preacher” due to his bible quoting tendency, that I had a vague idea what he looked until I saw a man at church one evening. It is rather embarrassing to have your husband ask you why you were ogling a stranger during church services.  Good thing I didn’t have a camera with me.

Bing Image
Other times it takes a while.  I’ll see a photo or someone on tv or in a movie and they stay with me.  Over time they morph in looks and develop a personality all their own. I don’t believe I have ever drawn anyone whole and complete from real life.  Rather I combine characteristics and personality traits that I admire or don’t as the case may be to form new individuals. Many I believe are made up of parts and pieces of the thousands of characters I’ve encountered in the books I have read.

Sometimes the story comes first and the characters are magically plotted along with it by whatever strange function the brain uses.  This used to really worry me for sanity’s sake until I learned it happens with other writers.

For characters that just “appear” whole and complete except their growth during a story I seldom do a character chart.  But Lucien Merristorm, the hero in Honour’s Redemption proved to be an extremely difficult character for me when it came to his growth arc.  Lucian had been on a downward spiral through the previous three Honour books and I thought I knew him well.  When it came to his own book I ran into a brick wall about half way through the story.  In the end I did a character chart which didn’t help. In the end I did an emotional change/growth chart as I followed the synopsis. This enabled me to get a much firmer grasp on Lucien and I finished the book which will be published later this year.

Do you ever imagine characters or lives about characters from books you've read?

Characters—Where Do They Come From?

Nothing can come out of a writer’s head that did not go into it. In my head magic happens. Characters and their characteristics get mixed like the colors on a 1960’s tie-dyed T-shirt.  The characters are made up of bits and pieces of people I know well, people I’ve met, people I’ve heard about and a few decades of people I’ve only met between the covers of a book.

Then the characters change right before my eyes as parts of their unique personalities are revealed by the story events they are forced to endure. My novels are about many things, but the setting for the ones actually finished centers around The Proving Zone. The proving zone is a large section on the planet with diverse climates and areas as well and some other fine problems. The characters must walk from the entry gate to the final step, one thousand miles, to get a sterilization implant removed. If you don’t go, you can’t have children. 

My little head thought it would be funny if a very vane person who liked to be perfectly groomed, and had died hair, had to go through the zone and how it would be accomplished. Obviously things are pretty primitive since you have to walk. It will also take a while. Those roots will need to be touched up to maintain that perfect fa├žade. I thought it would be hysterically funny if her packet of hair dye exploded because it got too hot.

Oopsie.

As I wrote the story, it became obvious immediately that this person had to be perfect in image to survive. She had to perform perfectly or suffer severe punishment from her family and the person her family had put in charge of her from infancy. An exploding hair dye packet put her in a near catatonic state. It wasn't funny at all! It was catastrophic and for that character life-threatening!

And then imagine the man she went through the zone with. What would he do when faced with such perfection and such a situation where he didn’t have the faintest clue what the problem was.

And then how will these two people manage to survive the zone, survive understanding each other, and understanding the changes life brings. Does their relationship as it develops with one set of rules, morphs into another? These people are obviously going through difficulties of which I have no certain knowledge of real people, but as the character’s personalities are revealed, then their actions and motivations become clear.

I find that the characters are molded more around the ‘theme’ of the story—of which I am also in ignorance until it is revealed by my innermost storyteller.

I am in awe of storytellers and the different ways their brains manufacture fine tales to entertain the rest of us. I wonder how it could ever be taught in a school setting. Indeed, I imagine that school settings of learning storytelling are quite often very wrong for the way a brain comes up with the story. Not that a person couldn’t learn the parts of what stories are, but when you find out there are people who re-arrange cards to write, and others who write the ending before the beginning or whatever their brain’s method might be, I think that explaining the iffy-oddity of the way writerly stuff is expressed from any one writerly brain might be nice to know for beginning writers. I would think it would cut down on the frustration of trying to fit your personal storyteller square peg into a certain sized round hole. Sometimes my writerly peg is star shaped!

Since most of my characters pop out of my inner writerly brain, I have very little control over the mix as written. I realize my fingers write, but my writerly brain is happier and actually works when unfettered by reality. Take my non-happy brain and it has two characters stuck in a floating unmoving ship for six years. My daughter told me to set fire to the ship and see what happens....

Learning about my particular writerly ability has been a long unfinished journey with a lot of wonderful handholding and long conversations with other WARA members. I no longer fear what comes out of my brain, nor am I concerned with immediate psychiatric incarceration.


Where do my characters come from? (Kate O’Hara)

I’ve been writing for less than a year, so am a novice at the various elements of structure like character and plot development. I also have to admit to feeling a bit like a fraud in that my writing is memoir driven. A disclaimer preface in all my books states: The following story is like many movies today—based on “true” events. Literary license allows me to leave out some of the boring parts and enhance some others for your entertainment.

So, the obvious answer to the source of my characters is real life people. Luckily, I am of an age where most of the characters I have written about are long gone and can’t be either flattered or embarrassed by inclusion. Each of the characters is based on someone specific with name changed (of course). I don’t always make these characters as well-rounded as they were in real life, but emphasize certain traits to tell the story from the perspective I have chosen. A few of the characters are composites of several people who played a similar part in propelling the plot along. In all cases, the characters are people I thought were important enough in my own life to earn a spot in print.

Character names come from a variety of sources, of course. I like to give a nod to my current friends by using their first names for characters. This is always with permission, of course, and their approval to be associated with such a character. My tall, dark gun dog judge friend in Washington lent her name to the petite, blonde ballroom dancer in one story. Another writer with an unusual first name was pleased to become a rather flamboyant character in my “Seeker” series of short stories. I always send her clips of the stories where I use her name to make sure she likes them.


I’m past seventy and the “Greek Fire” series I write takes place in the 1960s. I found myself checking for obituaries of those people I wanted to include so I wouldn’t “out” them or some of their less glorious behaviors from that era. Recently I discovered that one minor character I had outlined for a little subplot was alive and still in the media. Even though I had not seen him in nearly 50 years, I took a few minutes to call and say hello. He barely remembered me, of course. I wasn’t even a blip on his radar at the time, but he did have an impact on my life back then. I opted to cut him and the whole subplot from the story rather than take a chance someone would recognize him in his wilder days. You’re welcome, Don. J

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.

Where do your characters come from? (Kathy Pritchett)

The blog topic for February is Where do your characters come from? Some days, I wish I knew.

           Take Scott Aylward, the hero of my upcoming novel What the River Knows. The idea for the book and character came to me over 20 years ago, but I didn’t dig it out to work on until the last few years. To come up with a suitable name for a dedicated police officer, I researched baby names, trying to find names that meant guardian or protector. Among the ones I found were Biron, Randy, William, Del and Aylward. I decided Aylward made a good last name, though Del found a home as the first name of Scott’s partner. Because Scott is ADD and tends to wander off task, I chose between Wendell and Scott (both mean wanderer) for his first name. Tell me, doesn’t Scott sound sexier than Wendell?

            For his wife, who is a real witch with a capital B, I searched for names that mean “rules the home.” I found Henrietta and Rica. Since her mother is Mexican, Rica seemed a better fit. She is closely based on the woman I NEVER want to be. Demanding, self-centered, angry. A recent Beta reader decided early on that Scott needed to ditch her.

            Scott’s mentor and “spirit guide” through the book is Al Conrad, a widowed newspaper editor. In its variations, Al means “wise.” Conrad means “honest, brave advisor.” Al is just the guide Scott needs to get through the changes that befall him in the book.

            The victim is named Delia Stillman Enfield. Both Dalia and Stillman mean gentle. Her ex-husband (also referred to as a “starter” husband by a motivational speaker on positive thinking) is a simple man, nicknamed “Joker” like his tattoo. His first name, Ellery, means joker, while his last name, Enfield, means simple. Delia was known as Margaret Stillman in high school but began using her middle name as a first name during college. The name change from Margaret Stillman to Delia Enfield mirrors the metamorphosis she underwent during the transition from teen to adult. Yet her change is not as drastic as that of her best friend.

            As is often the case, the characters in a novel embody traits of the author. Like Scott, I am attention deficit disordered (which is why I would never make a good cop. It’s not healthy to be holding a gun on a suspect only to be distracted by a squirrel as he’s about to shoot back.) Unlike Scott, I never played football, though I survived a divorce. I also understand the off-duty life of a cop, because I was married to one for 21 years. Like Scott, I often second-guess myself and doubt my competence. Like Scott, I also grew up in a stoic family of hard-working farmers.


            I guess the characters come from within—within the writer and within the story itself. They take on a life of their own and often defy the writer’s plans for them. And some days, they tell a better story than we intended.

Where do characters come from?


Patricia Davids here.
This month's blog is about characters. Where do mine come from?
My characters come down the road in a horse drawn buggy. Seriously, they do.
 
They come from Ohio and Pennsylvania by the way of a little Kansas town called Hope. They don't actually have any Amish in Hope. What they do have there are my childhood memories.

My Brides of Amish Country series is set in the fictional town of Hope Springs, Ohio. I didn't vary too much on the name, did I? Hope Kansas. Hope Springs, Ohio. My setting is as important a character as the people I write about in that fictional town. I have created a place we'd all like to live or we know someone who used to live in a place like that. A place where people look after their neighbors in times of trouble. It's a place where you know who likes to gossip, who bakes the best pies and who keeps a tidy yard and who sells overpriced goods. It's a place where one stray dog belongs to everyone and never goes hungry. A place where you know the minister will preach about your wrongdoing if you get caught but your grandmother will make it all better with hot cinnamon rolls when you get home from church.

It isn't a real place, but it contains the best of some real places that are dear to my heart. Just as our heroes aren't real men, but rather the men we'd like to fall in love with. As writers, we take the best of what we'd like to see in ourselves and others and imbue our characters with those traits.
 
My new release, Amish Redemption, is the final book in my Brides of Amish Country, but the hero has four brothers who need wives, too. They live in Bowmans Crossing Ohio. It's just up the road from Hope Springs but still close to Hope, Kansas. I'm really going to miss Hope Springs, but I think I'll venture back there from time to time.
 
I enjoy creating characters that live, laugh, quarrel, make-up and fall in love. Even if they do all come down the road in an Amish buggy
 
What town, real or imaginary, has had the most influence in your life? Does it find it's way into your writing?
Pat