I had an email from Therese, advising me that we’re taking questions from blog readers for the month of December. That was actually a relief, as I’m fast drafting this month, and I’m using most of my brain for other things. Therefore, this saves me thinking up my own post, a blessing for which I am tremendously grateful.
Brooke asked: How do you create new & realistic characters- especially when you have just switched from one project to the other? (How does character development evolve?)
This is an excellent one for me to answer. I am prolific, so I write a fair number of projects in a year. Generally, however, I don’t write them at the same time, so I’m focused on one world, one set of characters. Concentration is key for me. So is immersion. I’ve found the deeper I fall into a book, the more intense the reader reaction. If what I’m writing feels real to me, then that commitment shows in the final product.
But the first part of this question is about creating characters after switching gears, so I’ll address that. I find it’s most helpful to cleanse my palate, so to speak. I never immediately start a new book, after wrapping up a project. I cherish my down time, where I don’t produce, where I refill the tank with music, movies, walks, my kids, other people’s books, TV shows, my cats, and whatever else I can find to occupy my mind that does not have to do with writing. One week is the shortest time I’d recommend to clean the old characters out of your brain. Two weeks to a month is better, but sometimes deadlines don’t permit it. For me, it’s important not to work during that time. It’s my time to recharge, so I can keep writing all year without long “blocked” periods.
During that time, I may be percolating the next book, thinking about the people and the world. Obviously, this process depends a great deal on whether these are new characters / new world, or if I’m writing a book in an ongoing series. Jax, for example, is pretty easy for me to write because we’ve been together for five books. Her world (and her mind) is familiar to me.
I pride myself in the realistic quality of the characters, but the path I take to their creation varies somewhat. [Read more…]