Who’s That Lady? (Creating Characters on a Deadline)

First of all I want to thank the amazing Jeanette Grey for swapping days on the blog with me so I could vacation last week. On my regular day I was busy doing this:

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It was fun, but not very informative about writer life for all of you bad girlz of the world. *grins* Now that I’m settled back into the real world, I want to discuss something that’s on my mind this week as I stare down the beginning of another book: creating characters on a deadline. Yes, I said the second most dreaded word in the writer language next to synopsis—DEADLINE!

Sometimes in the writer biz you can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to come and fill in the gaps of your knowledge of a character. So, what’s a girl to do?

• Begin with what you know.
Whether you’re starting with a totally new set of characters or finishing up a series, chances are you have some concept of who your main characters are. Begin there. Use what you know of your character as well as your plot to sketch over the holes. Logically, if the hero of this story achieves ___ in the plot, he is a _____ sort of person and has issues with ____. Then ask why. This will help deepen the POV of the character you’re writing. Always ask why. Always! You don’t have to tell the backstory, but you do need to know it.

• Feed your muse. Nom, nom, nom.
Now you have a sketchy idea of your character in an afternoon, but you have to start writing tomorrow to meet your deadline. Don’t panic! This is the fun part in which you get to look at pictures of hotties. Once you know the archetype of your character, try to think of some similar characters in movies, concepts from songs, or hotties in magazines. Spend the evening soaking it all in. Ahhhhh. This sounds like procrastination, but it can keep your mind from swerving off into the dangerous waters of character recreation and self-doubt. Most writers I know will watch a certain movie or listen to a particular song over and over while writing a character. It feeds the muse, and keeps the writerly thoughts from having a paper jam before they can make it into the story.

• Be organized.
In whatever manner you want to keep your character notes, just keep them together. It helps to look back over notes later when writing, so if you write ideas on napkins and the back of grocery lists use a stapler or a binder clip or a shoebox…whatever just don’t lose your notes. I scribble ideas throughout writing the book and keep mine in a spiral bound notebook. When I have writer’s block it helps me to fill a page with useless information about the character as fast as I can write it. From favorite food to hobbies, write, write, write! But, I digress…

• Roll with it.
You’ll learn who your characters are through writing their stories. You can always fix inconsistencies in edits, so go for it and write the book!

I have to keep reminding myself of this last part. It’s alright not to know all the details. Life will continue if the first few scenes need more attention during edits. And, the book will not magically write itself while I fret over the characters for another month. So, off I go to begin my next book. The characters are sketchy, but they’ll be colored in by layers and layers of words. I’m not going to panic; instead I’m going to roll with it.

How long does it take for you to craft your characters? If you had to, how fast could you create them?

xx- E. Michels

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