What a Character

by | Jul 11, 2016 | Articles | 0 comments

I was recently reading another author’s blog, and saw a post about the writing process, and in particular the naming of characters. I wondered, Are people really interested in reading about this?

I couldn’t help thinking that only writers are so interested in other writers’ processes that they’ll read a whole blog post about it. But who knows, maybe readers are also fascinated by the mechanics of putting a book together. My own work is so character-driven that I figured I’m best off writing about how the characters came to be.

Then I thought about it and realized that all three of my novels had major dissimilarities in terms of the way the characters came about! Brothers’ Hand, my first novel, was very organic: I started the book with no outline, no plan, no character sketches…just scenes that unfolded naturally. It was only after I’d written a scene or two that I went back and did any planning.

My second novel, Jana, is the only one of my three novels that’s in the first person. As I have said to many people, this 24-year-old lesbian character started talking to me in my head and didn’t shut up for about two years. I don’t think I ever wrote out her motives, her character traits…anything. She was (and is) as real to me as anyone I’ve ever known.

For Miles of Files, I wanted to paint with a broader palette, and I actually had a few things in mind. For one, I wanted to have tiers of characters like Charles Dickens did in Dombey and Son: primary, secondary, and tertiary.  The tertiary characters are mainly commentators, who pass on information about primary and/or secondary characters. I wanted to make sure each character was unique and different enough from the others that the reader could easily identify them, so I went through the Myers-Briggs personality types and assigned them accordingly.

Interestingly enough (to me, anyway), my protagonist was not the same profile as me; I’m an INFP, and my INFP character was a female secondary character named Pamela Mae Swenson. I’m not sure if I realized that her initials spelled PMS until later on, but I didn’t change them.

So there’s a tiny bit of insight into character. What about all of you out there? Do you have stories to share about your favorite characters? Or secrets you’d like to share?

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