Recently an interviewer asked me the question, “What’s your process in developing your characters?”
Here’s my answer: When I start a story, I have a protagonist in mind. That person becomes my main character. I have a vague idea of who some supporting characters might be, but many pop up as the story progresses.
As an example let me take you back in time with the early days of The Clock Strikes Midnight. I began the novel with Marlene in mind. It was supposed to be a story about a woman going through a mid-life crisis. Well, Marlene had other ideas. She took me down an entirely different path. Wow! It was amazing. As I worked with Marlene, other characters emerged. The first being her husband, Peter. But, it wasn’t long before Peter took a backseat and Marlene’s sister, Janie, surfaced. I had no idea that Janie would turn out to be a bad little teen. She was the polar opposite to Marlene. Where Marlene was the good little girl growing up, Janie rebelled. The contrast was fun to write, but again not what I had planned. It didn’t take me long to realize I couldn’t plan. My characters had their own ideas.
This kind of evolutionary writing makes for an editing nightmare. It is, however, the only way I know how to write. I have heard other writers who have had similar experiences. Yet, there are also writers who know their characters and their story before they start. For me, the process of writing, of creating enables me to let loose and allow the characters to emerge.
How about you? How do you develop your characters?
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