"How do you develop different personalities in your characters? Do any of your secondary characters have a novel of his or her own?"
This was a question posed to me when I was participating at a local writing workshop.
I gave an answer to the 'newbee' writers which helped them with long-term writing goals, but I'd like to go into more detail in this month's BWL Insider Blog post.
The ‘How’ of the writing is always interesting for me to analyze --especially in my own process (I don't always know how my processing works).
While I have detailed plot lines before I write a story or novel, I am instinctive when creating my characters.
As I’ve blogged before, I begin with a sense of time and place. When the story in bubbling in my subconscious, I heard snippets of conversations, a song playing in my head (you know that annoying song simply leave you alone), or a impulse to cook a certain regional food.
A few examples: When writing ‘Lynx” Rodeo Romance book 1, “Amarillo by Morning” kept playing in my mind. I located by paternal grandfather’s Tex-Mex chili recipe and made chili once a week. And then a brassy woman speaking with a Texas-twang and popping her chewing-gum would pop into my head (ala’ Flo’ in an old TV sitcom).
We all know a novelist always falls in love with her ‘first hero’. My first romantic hero was Lynx Maddox. While his younger sister was only mentioned in the first book of my Rodeo Romance Series, she became by break-out character in the second book, “Brede”. Whereas Rachel Scott and Lynx Maddox were the stars of my contemporary romance; Brede Kristensen and Amberlylnn Maddox stars shine in my romantic suspense novel, “Brede” Rodeo Romance book 2.
My characters also ‘drive my story’—often in a different direct, thus destroying months of detail research. “Nooo! Not again.”
Yes, this is my first reaction. And, of course, I rebel at the very thought of shoving my months of detailed research back into my file overflowing file cabinet. I’ve learned I am not able to force my characters to act against his or her nature. Painful though it may be, I listen and I shift my story-line.
When did this happen?
The first time I experienced this ‘traumatic’ writing experience, I was plotting, “Tanayia—Whisper upon the Water” my sweet historical romance.
Tanayia was to be a member of the Paiute tribe of Native Americans. She was being groomed for the ‘taking of the shawl” (becoming a medicine woman). I was involved in Native American Education Programs, served on a PAC Committee (parent advisory council), and participated in powwows. I interview tribal elders and traveled to historical sites, etc. I’d plotted by novel down to a puppy’s freckle, so to speak.
While Tanayia allowed me to keep the historical event which formed the opening event of my 1st chapter, I learned she younger. She was also a member of the “Nde” Apache tribe. Tanayia was also strong-willed and determined.
My novel was not set in a different tribal area, difference climate, different customs, beliefs. . .well, you know what that meant. Yes, more research. I live within driving distance of Sherman Indian School in Riverside, CA. In fact, I attended powwows where the Apache (Fire) dancers from the White Mountain Reservation danced each year.
In the end, Tanayia was correct. My story was her story. It was her life, her experience—it was history, accurate, painful. It was the personal growth of a young woman, torn between two-worlds. I must, in the end, thank Tanayia for the awards this novel was awarded: The Independent e-Book Award for YA Historical Fiction, The Dream Realm Award, and a National Book Award Nomination.
Are more break-out characters evolving in my novels?
Yes, there are a few nudging me now.
Any guesses? Who is your personal favorite? Mary Billy? Anna Thunder? Or, perhaps Charlene?
I also have a new hero, or two, with a foot hold in my plotting-world right now, too.
Several live in the Cajun country of New Orleans, Louisiana; another on a wind-scarred reservation. There is also an a unexpected heroine in an action-packed story sent in Hollywood, CA!
Happy Reading and Writing,
Links to interesting topics and settings for my BWL novels via YouTube:
Native American Art (Brede) Cowboy Stew (He looks like a younger version of Caldwell in my novel "Brede", doesn't he?)