Sunday 24 May 2015

How I Create Characters

This week's post is a little bit different, because I thought I'd share with you how I create my characters, right from the very first idea ...

I was happily watching a movie last week and heard a really catchy song in the background. Me, being me, I'd Googled it before the credits even had chance to roll and downloaded it. Before I knew it, I had an idea for a story. (You can read more about how music inspires me here).

This is my favourite part of writing - when an idea smacks you right between the eyes and you know you have to go ahead and write it. Of course in three months time I'm going to be muttering about how much I hate the thing, but right now it's the honeymoon period.

Like onions (and ogres!)* characters
should have layers - is the image
presented to the reader the 'real' one?
So I had this idea for a story, which I'm not going to share (because I'm mean like that), and it's about a girl (my books usually are). I already know what she looks like and the kind of clothes she wears and how she spends her time. I know what she wants from her life - or rather, what she thinks she wants - and that's not the same thing at all. She has to have a problem, which she assumes she can solve by running away from it and, because I'm a writer and a complete sadist, she's just going to run into a whole set of new problems, so that will serve her right (mwah haha).

I don't base my characters on celebrities and I don't write long lists of their funny little quirks and what colour their eyes are and what their favourite food is. Somehow I instinctively know all this. Don't ask me how, I just do. I'd rather get on and write a story than compile a list of lists. For example, in Nemesis I knew Alicia's favourite food was chocolate whereas Natalie would think it was a stupid question - and be likely to tell you so as well! I do plan my books, because otherwise I'd get distracted by a subplot, and I always know how my stories are going to end. Although sometimes the identity of the bad guy might change (Nemesis, Something Wicked), and once I even wrote a whole book backwards (Something Wicked).

This photo of a Lewis Carroll quote
was taken in my favourite
coffee shop!
Because my books have a good chunk of romance in them I also need a hero. (Don't we all!) For my new story I've already decided my action is going to take place over the course of a week so it makes more sense for my heroine to already know him. Someone from her past? But why haven't they kept in touch? Ooh, plot development! Now, do I give him a similar set of problems, so their actions mirror each other throughout the story, or set them against each other, give them conflicting goals - and let sparks fly? And all the time I'm thinking 'What if ... ' and if the answer is too obvious, I'll twist it around on its head. I love twists!

It's usually at this point my characters take up residence inside my head and start talking to me. And that's the very best bit. Because when I hear them telling me their story, refusing to act out in the way I want, arguing about how they want to do things, I know I should start writing. Fast.

And I got all this from hearing one song ...

Related Posts:

Music: Wings to the Mind

*If you didn't rcognise that quote, it came from Shrek!

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  1. That was really interesting Louise. It continues to astound me how our characters can appear, fully formed and chattering away, at the blink of an eye. For me it was a photograph in a magazine - plot, characters and ending just popped into my head as soon as I saw that picture. Do you instinctively know the names of your characters or does that come later?

    1. Thank you, Shelley! Yes, when those characters drop into our heads fully formed it is a gift indeed! That's a good question about names. I collect names that I love - such as Shelby or Lainey but sometimes the characters change their names as the story progresses. The heroine in my new story was going to be called Abbie - until I decided to have a real abbey as one of the locations and then it got a bit silly!

    2. Ha ha yes I can understand that, perhaps you can use Abbie in another story (lovely name). In my fantasy novel I had a Fae Queen called Alia and her friend called Mia - oops, I changed Mia to Myanna and will use Mia in my next project. I do love the name Lainey.

    3. Ha! I have a Mia in one of my upcoming projects! I love that name! We're always told not to have characters with names beginning with the same letter too, yet in Harry Potter you have Harry, Hagrid, Hermoine ...

  2. Such an interesting post. I love the way you write and it works very well. Your characters always have a distinctive personality which makes them stand out, I like that a lot about your books.

    1. Thank you, Suze! I love my characters! They're like my family!