Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Characters in Search of An Author

Time for another spin through the blog chain, and Cole has started things off with this question:

How do you get inside your character's world?

In her post Cole admits to more or less stalking her characters. And while I am always impressed - in awe even - by writers who go that extra mile and really get down and dirty with the research, my attitude has always been a bit more laid back. Unlike Cole, instead of stalking my characters, I go in the completely opposite direction and play hard to get with them.

Like Rebecca (who was directly before me on the chain, check out her awesome post here) my characters just generally show up in my brain one day. And like most characters, they're a little self-involved - you know, constantly wanting to talk about themselves. And that's fine... to a certain extent. But come on, I haven't even sat down to write yet, if they tell me every last thing it could make the putting it down on paper part a little dull.

That's why when my characters first show up I don't let them chatter on incessantly, but instead carefully interview them for the job of hero/heroine of my story. It kind of goes like this:

HEROINE: Okay, so I'm twenty-eight, and I have really pretty brown hair that gets kind of curly when it's humid out, and my eyes are --

ME (interrupting): Yeah, not interested. So tell me what is it you want, and what's stopping you from getting it?

HEROINE: Oh, okay... um, okay well, when I was twelve my mother told me that I'd never--

ME (interrupting again. very rude of me, I know): No, no, no. Not your backstory. Geez. I know you've got skeletons in your closet, but we don't need to pull them all out right now. So let's focus, what's your problem right now.

Once we get the interview over, I'll look at some other characters as well: love interests, best friend, villains, etc. Throughout it all I try to stay on the same "need to know" basis.

So, does that mean I start writing with a lot of unknowns and question marks surrounding my characters. Why yes, yes it does. And couldn't that potentially lead to some inconsistencies when the first draft is done? Yeah, sure. But I'm cool with that, and isn't that what first drafts are for?

And when I finish that first draft I'll know a lot more about my characters than I did when I started. That's because as I go along I'm going to throw my characters in different situations and see how they react. Whether it's their head or their hearts being broken, I'm gonna find out what they're thinking while it's happening, and for me that's the really fun and surprising part of writing.

Okay, well that's all for me this ---

What's that you say? That this is all just a bunch of crap to cover up the fact that I don't like to research and avoid it like the plague? How dare you. I am Offended. And Outraged. And some other feeling that starts with O and fits this situation. Really, that is, well that is just...

Well, it's true is what it is. Or partially true, at least. Cause all that stuff I already said isn't crap. I really do like the fun and surprise of writing without having everything one hundred percent figured out, and if this oh so conveniently works with my 'we don't need no stinkin' research' philosophy... well, then that's just lucky for me.

Okay, that's really all for me. To keep following this chain head on over to Amanda's blog and find out how she climbs into her characters' world.


  1. Nice! I love the interview and the thought process. :)

  2. Too funny! My characters just show up, but I don't even interview. I just plunk down in the opening scene and things play out.
    And yeah, my rough draft is pretty rough. LOL
    But it's fun this way, right? I love it when I'm writing and something happens and I learn some new facet of my character. :-)

  3. Ha Ha! So funny how everyone's process is different :)

  4. As one pantster to another, this is awesome. I love the whole interview process part, especially where you get to get rude with your characters and there's nothing they can do about it. Awesome post!

  5. The interview process is priceless :D! I love the way you describe this.

  6. Too funny. Love your "interview". Mine drive around in the car with me for awhile...every time I get in, there they are. (I'm in the car alot) I don't always know their deep issues, but I know they have something to say and that eventually they'll spill it. BTW...I don't do research either!

  7. Hi Kate!
    I love the blog today. I should have interviewed my heroine sooner... I wouldn't be doing so many revisions right now. :P

    Hop on over to my Penny Dune blog and bask in the glow of winning an award. I know you're busy, so don't feel like you have to meme for me. :) Big hugs and kisses for the babes.
    ~Bethanne, Penny Dune.

  8. I have this great image of you sitting there with a pad and pencil, with a line of characters trailing out the front door, applying for the job of being in your book. It goes to show how different this process is for all of us.

  9. Who does she thinks she is, trying to drop that backstory on you like that :)

  10. I take it your picture is of an SF author being interviewed by little green men?

    I too learn a lot about my characters as I draft. Sometimes, when I think I know them, they surprise me with something out of left field. I agree that does make writing more enjoyable.

  11. You should stop by my blog - I've passed on an award to you!

  12. So funny! I jot down everything as it comes. I don't do formal interviews or anything. I suppose I should. Maybe it would make the massive rewriting sessions I do a little easier. :)

  13. I love it! Interviewing characters--great idea!

  14. Ha! Love it. Great pic and hilarious interview. Silly characters, why can't they just cooperate and spill their guts right from the start? It'd be sooo much easier!

  15. I LOVE this laid back style! And the interview process is a great idea. Great post.

  16. I'd love to do interviews like that. In real life. :-)

  17. You've got a great blog here. I've also left something for you at my blog.

  18. That was a great, funny post. The interview was hilarious, and I bet getting ticked at your characters and throwing them into the auto reject pile saves a lot of headaches later when you're in a story and go, "Doh. You don't work at all!"

  19. Hilarious post. :)

    I tried interviewing my characters but they wouldn't tell my anything. I got to know them as the story progressed.