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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Getting to Know Your Characters

I'm going to post more about this in my inaugural post on our Class of 2k9 Live Journal blog on Tuesday, but I wanted to start mulling things over here first.

So here's the question: How do you get to know your characters? I'm sensing it's different for each writer. And maybe even each book. Anne Michaelson in Dreaming Anastasia (Sourcebooks, Fall '09) began as a voice of this snarky sixteen year old. I'd been poking around for something I really could sustain into a novel. And then there she was, sort of full grown like Athena out of Zeus's head or something.

Only not exactly. The original Anne was simply a sixteen year old girl who seemed to be getting in trouble a lot (that sort of changed) and who knew about the Romanov history and was bored out of her mind in history class. The Anne you'll meet come September when DA hits the shelves, is real, fleshed out person. It's the in between that fascinates me. The trying to track back to how did I really get to know this girl.

Same thing for Andy Meyers in the recently finished Cut Back. And KC Sweet from Sweet Dreams, that I'm itching to get back to when I finish the last of my Dreaming edits. They began as ideas; ended up as people who seem as real to me as friends and family.

So the question is, how did I move from hey I've got this idea about this girl named Anne and this guy named Ethan or this other guy named Andy to people who readers can feel they know? And I guess it's sort of like that old joke about how do you get to Carnegie Hall. (Practice!) It's a sometimes meticulous, sometimes muse inspired, oftentimes messy pages of scribbled notes journey of discovery that ends up with me knowing more than will ever appear on the page but will most certainly inform everything my main characters do and say and think. Meaning that eventually, the question "What would Anne say here? What does she want? Really?" is answerable in a way that is organic to who she is.

More over at the 2k9 blog on Tuesday. See link above and see you there! And feel free to chime in here and there about how you achieve characters that you really really know.

Til next time...

1 comment:

Fran Cannon Slayton said...

Hi Joy - this is great! Can't wait to see the full discussion tomorrow at 2k9!