It’s all about the characters

I love getting to know my characters. I like the unexpected things that they do, the spontaneous things that they say. Often times, I’ll get introduced to a new main character through a prompt response or a random scene that I write. Those short pieces then multiply, though not as prolifically as rabbits. They might follow the same character or I might switch characters with each one.

When I was first working on the Essential Guide to Supervillainy, the first pieces I wrote were entries in the guide itself. I had no idea who was writing it, only that they had adopted a ludicrous penname of Jonnie B. Bad. Writing those guide entries was a stress reliever. It was over a year later when I first decided to tell the Guide’s story–who wrote it, how it was spread around a high school, and all the many consequences of its publication in the school. I ended up with a set of quirky band seniors in a novel writing class.

Since finishing the first draft of EGtSV I have enjoyed crafting different short stories with those characters. Some of those stories were written for friends. For awhile, several friends and I were on a character letter writing campaign that crossed genres, time periods and the bounds of common sense. One character, Chance, is in a novel I’m writing with another friend. All of these experiences taught me about these people I’d inflicted into prose. They gained depth and backstory that I can now use when I begin to edit EGtSV again.

In the first draft, Chance Mateer was a senior trombonist with a thing for zombies, both in his writing and his art. He had a certain offbeat recklessness and a rascally charm. His big issue he didn’t talk to the whole world about was his dyslexia. His parents were mentioned once in the book.

The Chance I know now has a propensity for pranks. He has a reputation for them throughout the band and at his summer camp. He lives and breathes for that summer camp, where he was a camper for years before becoming staff-in-training. His family has grown from a faceless cutout. He is an adorable older brother to his sister Annelise. She’s a kindergartner to his senior status, the daughter of Chance’s mom and his stepdad Bob. Chance’s dad passed away before Chance left elementary school. There’s a special place in the nature preserve woods where the members of Chance’s family have gone for important events. He almost gets into huge trouble for taking days old Annie down there without telling anyone. I’ve found places where even he gets tired of zombies and what pushes him beyond his off kilter view of the world.

When I start rereading EGtSV before the edit, I’m going to be looking for places to add in some of the details Chance has gained. They won’t all have a place, but the ones that do will help show off who he is rather than giving him only a surface wash.

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2 thoughts on “It’s all about the characters

  1. sargemarcori

    That’s my favorite way to get to know them too–write them, write them, and write them some more. ^_^

    • I had an English class where the professor wanted a character sketch. The professor was picturing more of a list of things about the character, and I pictured more of a scene with the character. Well, more accurately, it ended up being world building notes and a scene of sorts.

      The scene must have helped me even if it wasn’t what was desired because the short story I then had to write with the character got a much more positive reaction.

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