Thursday, November 19, 2009

Writing is like giving birth.

So, you’re writing a book. Great! And your book has characters, probably. Cause…well, I’m not sure it’d be much of a book if it didn't. I’ll have to try that sometime—a book with no characters.

But I digress.

So you have characters. That’s good. Do your characters come to you fully formed? Do you know their names before you start, or do you write a while and try to get to know the person that shows up on your pages before you name them? Do you know their physical traits, their hobbies, their bad habits, insecurities, hopes and fears all up front? What about their personalities? Is it something you work out before you start writing? Maybe in an outline? Or is it something that evolves as you write?

That’s a lot of question marks, but I’m curious how the process works for y’all. I write so freeform that I usually have nothing when I start but a name. But it’s fun to see my characters be born and grow into a whole person on the page. And often, they turn out nothing like I might have expected. Sometimes they let me down. Sometimes they piss me off. Sometimes they make me cry. Often they make me laugh. And every once in a while they shock the hell out of me.

Sounds like my kids.


  1. Lol I'm posting about characters all week on my blog :) Great minds...

  2. For me, the birth of each book (four of them) has been a little different. One I just started writing with a character, very free flowing. Another, I had a group of characters and I wrote some backstory on each one before diving into the story. Regardless of how they started, they each changed in ways unpredictable to me. And that's part of what I love about writing, digging deep and being open to possibility.

  3. My characters don't come to me fully formed. I usually start with an image, then a name, and a general idea of who they are...then I start interviewing them. I try to flesh my characters out as much as possible before I start writing the book. I use characterization worksheets that includes everything from physical attributes to the character's internal/external conflict. If I go into the story knowing as much as possible about the character, then I'm less apt to get in trouble (stuck) a few chapters in. That doesn't mean that my characters don't surprise me. That happens a lot, but that's what keeps things exciting.

  4. Andrea--
    Awesome posts, as usual.

    I find that even when I have an idea of how I think a character should be, they always have other ideas.

    OMG you're organized! I can't think of a single thing im my life that I'm that meticulous about. You're my hero.

  5. I love hearing about the process for different writers.

    Julia wow! Interviews and character worksheets must be a great way to get to know your characters, but it must be so time consuming!

  6. Lisa & Suzie,
    I used to be a pantster but found that outlining/plotting has saved me from hitting a wall later in the story. Plus, the historical romance author in me loves research.