This is part II of a post I started last month talking shop and having fun with published authors about their process. I know you’ll find their answers as interesting as I did. And when you’re finished, check out their books and blogs, especially if these excellent authors are new to you. Here are Dona Watson, Ashley Ludwig, Dineen Miller, Nancy Farrier and Joanne Bischof. Welcome ladies!
First, here are the questions:
1. What’s something funny or ironic that happened to you while writing/researching one of your books?
2. What’s one thing you find most helpful when developing a character?
Welcome Dona Watson, who writes, reads and breathes fantasy fiction. Her most recent release, Deathchaser, is in the online magazine, Sorcerous Signals. Hey, Dona!
Hi! First of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share. Writing can be an intriguing adventure.
1. While researching for a science fiction novel that I’m working on, my main character needed to break into the computer network of a corrupt government. However, in order to make it believable, I needed to know how the technology works. I searched Google diligently, and when my son, the technology guru in our house, ran diagnostics on our home network, he noticed that we had become the target of someone with very advanced technology trying to break past our extremely secure firewall—and succeeded. We traced the incoming signal and realized it was very likely we had become the target of the NSA, who had flagged my searches!
2. When I’m developing a character, I try to mentally put myself in their shoes to imagine how they would respond emotionally to certain circumstances. Another way is to imagine I’m the interviewer and ask my characters what their story is, then record their answer. As long as they’re talking to me, life is good. Like they say, “Writer’s block is when your imaginary friends stop talking to you.”
Ashley Ludwig writes sweet romance, and her stories will sweep you away, I guarantee! I love Ashley’s writing voice. You’re up, Ash!
Ironically, my answer to question 1 dovetails into question 2! I love writing sweet romance, but have always been a huge fan of romantic suspense. While veering from it (By Another Name, and His Darling, which both explore re-finding your joy after an abusive relationship, I find myself back in my wheelhouse of Romantic Suspense. While All or Nothing is a historical romantic suspense, my current characters live in a contemporary setting. I love developing characters, getting them in those impossible dilemmas, and helping them sort it all out. I find inspiration in things that happen every day, especially in moments when I’m developing character back story. I discovered something MOST disturbing about a villain for my next manuscript (Working Title) In Seconds when listening to a country song, “Don’t Lie.” I asked my hubby, “Doesn’t this guy sound creepy?” He and my kids laughed at me, saying, “That’s not what this song’s about…” but apparently my subconscious turned the *ahem* nice guy in the song, into a sinister stalker. Just wait. He’s absolutely HORRIFYING. But no match for my hero. 😉
2. When I sit down with a new story, I let my characters bounce around a bit. I start at the meet, and they usually whisper their names, and their names gives me clues as to their personalities. I read that you can put the same two people in MANY different situations, and see how they play off of each other. Everyone has weaknesses and strong points, even villains. The most challenging is making my heroines likable, and my villains truly evil.
Inspired by an author friend, I developed a worksheet called “Creating 3D Characters” which is available on my site. This worksheet asks in-depth questions from the high level (eye color, height, birthday, place, etc.) to favorite foods, habits, etc. By the time I’m halfway through, I know exactly who each character is, what phraseology they lean toward, and how they will respond in any number of situations!
Dineen Miller‘s debut fiction, The Soul Saver, had me turning the pages until late into the night. She also writes nonfiction for families in unequally yoked situations. Here’s Dineen!
HI Bev! 1. When I started planning The Soul Saver, I knew Lexie and Hugh Baltimore has lost their toddler daughter to a brain tumor. I also knew Hugh was a physics professor at Stanford University. A few months later we found out our youngest daughter’s worsening headaches were due to a malignant brain tumor. Then after her successful surgeries to remove the tumor, we found out her radiation treatments would be designed by a physics professor from Stanford! God is always in the details and we ARE His details!
2. Motivation. I’m fascinated by what drives us to do the things we do. Is it a lie we believe of ourselves or the world? What a character wants most—is it rooted in a rejection from the past? Or a past failure and a need to prove he or she can succeed? Amazingly, I’ve found that when I was able to identify the lies I held onto in my own life and give them to God to replace with His truth, that creating these premises became much easier to create for my characters. LOL! How funny is that? Yes, motivation is crucial in so many ways. Good and bad.
Nancy Farrier writes sun-drenched, Southwestern fiction, and it feels so real you’ll need sunblock and a cold lemonade while you’re reading! Look for her novella in Immigrant Brides, releasing July 1st. Go for Nancy!
1) After finishing the final draft of a book and sending it to my editor, having them return the galley for my perusal can take a few months. During that time, I will be working on another book, researching other stories, or writing more proposals. The book that is already written is often completely out of my mind as I focus on a new work.
With one of my novels, at the time I received the galley, I was going through a difficult circumstance in my life. I’d been praying for guidance. As I began to read the galley of my book, I was amazed at how God’s answer to prayer came through the spiritual teaching in that novel. I had put from my mind what happened in the story, and now found myself facing some of the same angst my heroine faced. The words I’d prayed about and penned months ago, now spoke to my heart and helped me through a tough time.
2) Characterization has always been tough for me. I usually have a general idea of what the character is like, but that isn’t enough. I find a picture and write up a short description: hair, eyes, height, weight, notable features, etc. Then I write a few pages of background, depending on the importance of the character. If this is a main character, I will begin with their birth, the family they are born into, siblings, family status and location. Then I write major events in childhood that would have shaped them into the person they are at the beginning of the story. If I “lose sight” of my character, or think they aren’t acting like they should, I can go back and reread the character background to get a renewed feel for who they are, what they believe, and how they might change through the book.
And here’s Joanne Bischof, the author of the Christy nominated, Be Still My Soul, the first book in the Cadence of Grace historical series set in Appalachian. Hey, Joanne!
Hi, everyone. I like to do a lot of hands-on research into the Appalachian way of life in the early 1900’s. This involves baking bread to keeping chickens and all sorts of odds and ends. There are a handful of details in BE STILL MY SOUL that revolved around moonshine. Fear not, I didn’t make moonshine, but I did ask some friends to bring some home from Tennessee. I’d been hoping to test a recipe I did for Moonshine Pecan Pie, and as I was baking that day, the researcher in me couldn’t completely resist. I think I tasted about a teaspoonful, and that was quite enough research for me!
And the last question about characters–Great question! One thing I really find crucial to developing a character is digging for their “humanness.” Developing characters goes beyond finding nearly-perfect people but allowing the raw and incomplete pieces to come forward. I think not only can we relate to them more, but the character can grow– giving that person something we can root for. To see those changes come full circle for a character from beginning to end is always one of my hopes as a storyteller.
Thanks, ladies, this has been so much fun!