Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Birth of Your Character

Guest blogger, Ron Voigts, wrote the "Penelope" YA mystery series that his agent is shopping around. We met at the Triangle Writers Circle in Cary, NC in 2001, and he has been a member of my face-to-face Movable Critique Group since 2003.
I’m always curious how the character in the story developed, or perhaps a better word was born. Did Harry Potter start out with blonde hair and blue eye, but then J.K. Rowling realized dark hair, spectacles and a lightning bolt scar worked better? Was Monk a manic-depressive, but then the show’s writers found phobias and OCD had better viewer appeal? Was Harry Holmes a flop until Sir Arthur Conan Doyle changed his name to Sherlock?

In my YA series, I originally had a college aged woman returning home for the Christmas holidays; the problem was her antics were too immature. So I scaled back her age to sixteen, but that brought along baggage that I didn’t want and the character still seemed to be younger. Finally I made her thirteen years old, wearing bib overalls. She was short for her age and had terribly curly hair that she hid under a stocking cap. Suddenly she came alive, disagreeing with adults and taking on the supernatural to solve a murder. Penelope was born.

How were your characters born?


Rick Bylina said...

Hmmm...Detective Roger Stark is a protagonist, co-protagonist, or minor character in all my novels. He (and his wife, Mary) started as walk-on characters in an earlier abandoned novel. I always had him as a less-brawny, Opie Taylor, man of quickness and brains not brawn and not always given the respect he actually deserves on first glance. His physical appearance hasn't changed much, but his psychological make-up got better grounded with each novel and each rewrite of each novel. Or, at least I think it has. :-)

FARfetched said...

Characters seem to reveal more of themselves to me while I'm writing. It's almost as if they're saying, "I'm not going to make the effort to tell you about myself unless I see you're making the effort to tell the story."