How characters arrive

I’m sure everyone who writes fiction finds their characters in a different way; some people might have the outline of a story and then identify who needs to be in their story. They may say this:

  • I am going to have two families at war, parents and children. So what ages shall I have my characters? Well for the purpose of the tale, both women are in the police and had stellar careers before they…. before they retired! So they must be of retirement age – their husbands… a similar age… no maybe one is younger… children… adult children by now… so grandchildren? Names? Ethnicity? Character – character dictates the plot – appearance…

Other writers might have a fully formed character in need of a story:

  • my character is based on someone I was at school with – they were older than me, and I always admired them! I imagined they had an exciting and extraordinary life – with maybe a little magic. I haven’t seen them since I left school, but that marvellous character is still alive to me and I want to write a story about them… now what should the plot be…

Some people just have a really vague idea, they want to write, but really they haven’t a thought about who should be in their tale, let alone what happens to them!

  • I really want to write, I want to write an adventure story which involves travel – maybe travelling in Belgium and Iceland as I’ve been to both those countries. Maybe someone gets kidnapped, or disappears, or a strange item is found in their luggage or in their car or in their pocket… I don’t know who they are, if it’s one person or several, how old they are, where they’re from… but they just love travelling in Belgium and Iceland…

…and some people are captivated by a place and what to write about it, but have no idea who should live or be in that place – town, village, small seaside cottage…

My stories usually start from characters – and these characters come from strangers I’ve observed, not necessarily doing anything – like the manager of a garage who was standing behind a counter with a sad, preoccupied expression – I couldn’t get him out of my mind and he became David Sullivan in ‘Flipside’. Then there were two well-known TV personalities, a character in a scandi-noir series and a bloke who works in a shop in town – they became the Radwinter brothers in my series. There is a very well-known singer who became a restaurant owner… but only in my book ‘Night Vision’.! There was a deputy head-teacher I once knew who later featured in one of my stories – not as himself, obviously!

I become intrigued by faces, expressions, scraps of over-heard conversations from strangers, a gesture, a smile, an unexpected turning away instead of turning towards someone…

Once I have these ‘people’, then I have to find names for them… and that is sometimes the hardest job of all! – although, having said that, I have a character called Lerryn who arrived yesterday, I know nothing more about her, except she is a cheerful, happy, energetic person!

Maybe the people in my featured image will become characters in a story…


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