Yesterday I was lucky enough to have Kat Jorgensen on my blog with an interview and review of her latest novel Your Eight O’Clock is Dead. Today I’m happy to welcome her back to share her thoughts on Developing Characters. So pay attention and take notes, this is gonna get good!
Get In Touch with Your Inner Characters
I’m one of those people who believe that everyone has at least one book in them. Now I have more books and characters in my mind than I’ll probably ever use. So how do we tap into our inner characters?
For “Your Eight O’Clock Is Dead” the main character, Becca Reynolds, presented herself to me almost totally formed. Basically, she is a younger, thinner version of me with much better hair. I have baby fine hair that I’ve struggled with all of my life, so it was a no-brainer to make my heroine have much thicker hair. And be at her ideal weight.
But what about her characteristics? They’re also drawn from me. Things happen to me that don’t seem to happen to other people. For years I’ve been entertaining my friends and family with my misadventures. It was easy to translate those events into Becca’s life. I keep a running list in a notebook of weird things that involve me – like getting locked in an airplane bathroom. You can bet that whole episode will show up in a future book! I can still tap into my claustrophobia just thinking about it. I set Becca up to be claustrophobic right from the get-go. By the time I get to book 4 where I use the airplane scene, readers will be very familiar with Becca’s fear of enclosed, tight spaces, and they’ll be feeling her panic right along with her.
Basically Becca is a lovable screw-up. Her intentions are stellar. The follow through is not always what she anticipated and how she reacts in any given situation makes for a lot of comedic opportunities.
Becca is inquisitive. She loves life, and she loves a good mystery. She’s also guilty of sticking her nose in where it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) belong.
Family and friends are important to her, just as they are to me. So I peopled her world with a grandfather who gives her lectures because he cares for her and wants the best for her and a couple of hunky men (I only have one hunk in my life, and I’ve been married to him almost 25 years) – but hey, this is fiction. Becca gets to flirt and fall for two good-looking guys.
In my non-writing life, I worked in mental health for many years. The two doctors in the book are drawn from characteristics of many of the medical professionals I’ve encountered in my working life. I’ve taken quirks and exaggerated them.
Character development is fun. I always start with the characters. Who are they? What are they like? What are their strengths and their weaknesses? How can I use them for plot problems?
Try it. You may surprise yourself.
And a round of applause for Kat. For those of you who weren’t with us yesterday…
A notorious daydreamer, Kat knew it was only a matter of time before she became a writer. She learned to read by age four and had her first library card before her fifth birthday. To this day, she can lose herself for hours among the books at her local library or neighborhood bookstore. Ebooks and online ordering have made it really easy for her to keep her To Be Read pile from ever going down. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Kat is married with children and has a cranky tuxedo cat named Ben.
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