Have you ever seen those close up, really close up, pictures of familiar objects and had no idea what you were looking at? I’m giving you a less challenging mystery picture tonight. Do you know what it is? Let me know what you guess. Or it could be you know what it is at first sight.
Sometimes writing is like that. You might know your story and your characters from the very beginning all the way to the end, or your story and your characters can be mysteries you as the writer have to solve. Characters can’t just walk on stage in a book without living a little life first. Well, maybe if a baby was just being born. Then I’d better know about the baby’s mother or father or maybe the doctor who could be delivering a baby for the first time. So many possibilities for every character – even those who aren’t going to matter too much to the storyline.
For my major characters, I create character sketches and try to get them to start talking inside my head. But most novels have dozens of characters. Some only make cameo appearances and never darken your book’s doorway again. And yet those characters have their moment to be real in your story. So I try to find a few details to make even the most minor character become somebody that, yes, you might see behind the store counter. Or as a nurse or firefighter. If you have a building in your story catch on fire, you need firefighters who know their business, to show up. Or perhaps not, according to how you want your story to go. But if you create bumbling firefighters, you still have to make them come across as real persons.
Sometimes in a story, a gift character shows up. Wes was that kind of character in Scent of Lilacs. I can’t remember planning Wes, but he rode his motorcycle into Hollyhill and ran out of gas money at just the right time. I really missed Wes when I started writing a new story that wasn’t set in Hollyhill. So I came up with another Wes like character in Angel Sister – Graham. And I loved getting him to talk in my story just as much.
Sometimes writing a story is about allowing ideas to pop up out of the ground like these mushrooms. (Yes, you wer right if you guessed mushroom.) All that old stuff, those memories from a lifetime of living sink down into a bubbling pool of creativity inside your brain. Then a story rises to the top and if I’m ready, then I can try to grab it fast before it sinks away into that dark world of forgetfulness where the very best ideas always seem to want to hide out.
Thanks for reading. I hope spring is popping up like these mushrooms in your neck of the woods. Now tell me, did you guess right? I hope I’m guessing right with the characters who are popping up in my new story.
I’ll be at The Bookstore in Campbellsville Saturday, April 13th, at 1 p.m. for a book signing and then at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest on April 20th, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST. That’s in Bowling Green. If you’re in either area, I hope you’ll come by and say hi.