I’m never quite sure how to describe the process of creating characters to people. It generally makes me sound insane.
For starters, I’m not sure how much I like the term “creating” characters. Realistically, that is what’s happening, but it doesn’t feel that way. It’s a bit like watching those old Polaroid photos develop. Out of the swirling grey mist comes features, some recognizable right away, some not, and hey, that thing you thought was an arm turns out to be a sword, and some details sharpen while you’re looking elsewhere, and then suddenly you see the image in its entirety.
That’s one way to describe it.
But really, for me it’s always felt more like I’m “meeting” my characters. There’s an initial encounter, usually completely out of the blue. That’s what happened with River—I caught a glimpse of a scene that never made it into the final cut. Sometimes, just like with real people in my life, I don’t remember meeting them for the first time. It feels like they’ve just always been there. Like Serafine.
Then, there’s a period of “getting to know you.” Again, just like with real people in my life, this tends to be a “tell me about yourself” kind of thing. I’ll ask my characters questions. I’ll let them ask me questions. So yes, if ever you see me on the bus or in a building with a slightly glazed look, chances are good that either a) my blood sugar is crashing, or b) I’m carrying on a conversation with fictional people in my head.
For writer-types (and actor-types, I imagine), it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
And it’s good for getting to know characters as more complete people. The reader doesn’t have to know everything you discover, but if you know your characters that well, it will show. The tricky thing is when characters are reticent. Serafine never really stopped talking once she started; there’s a character in The Next One who has taken a long time to open up (this is why my December is going to exam prep and rewrites).
I guess it’s been on my mind because I am making more progress on The Next Next One (aka The One That Has Nothing To Do With Hapax). One character seems to actively dislike me. One has terrified me. And another—well, we’re going to have fun, I’m sure.
I like writing. J