Writing a novel is a process. The path from conceptualization to completion can vary. No two of the many authors who I’ve talked with about their process approach the task the same way.
My process has been different for every novel. Or so I thought. Upon closer inspection, a single thread runs through the beginning of the process for all my stories. Whether I have an idea for a whole story or just a concept, it’s serious when I start writing paragraphs about the characters.
These short little bios include a few essential details about the character, his or her appearance, and a bit about their past. The more I write, the more fleshed out the characters become in my head. Before too long, I know the characters well enough to start telling their story.
Early on, I don’t always know my characters as well as I should. My knowledge about who they are is limited to the situations I’ve put them in. I don’t always think through motivations, desires, fears, passions, and other aspects of the character. Sometimes, I get by with it, but usually, by the end of the first draft, the blanks have been filled in.
In early drafts of Whippersnapper, a female main character ran away with the story. The romantic main chracters faded into the background. The folks at Dreamspinner Press liked the manuscript enough to assign a developmental editor to work with me to make the romance the centerpiece of the story.
She sent a character sketch form and encouraged me to complete it for each of the three main characters. Filling out the form for Peggy Tucker took a few minutes. Coming up with answers for for Oliver Crumbly and Tellumo Magnamater was a lot more difficult. No wonder Peggy overshadowed them.
The character sketch form arrived just as I was beginning to think about characters for my new series. I spent a few weeks answering all the questions on the two-page form for all the recurring characters. I had to come back to each several times to fill out all the blanks.
We’ll see what happens, but I can’t help but think the detailed character sketches will make writing the story a lot easier. I’ll keep you posted.