A friend recently asked me how I created the characters for Threshold, my first novel. As all new writers do, I took classes, read books about character development, and read great character writers. Yet, nothing prepared me for what happened as I began to write the story.
In Threshold, Dr. Carla Connor took over. She did not follow the path I had planned for her. She emerged as a person who changes considerably over the course of the story, finding new parts of herself not even in her own plan for her life. She impacted other characters so that I had to reshape them as well. Yet Carla was perfect for my intent.
Nobody tells you about this phenomena. Just Google “How to Develop Character” and see what comes up. There is nothing about the character coming alive and driving the narrative.
Louise Erdrich, whose characters pop from the page, explained this phenomenon recently with the release of her National Book Award novel, The Round House. Listen to this interview. If you do not want to listen to all of it, advance to 4 minutes where she explains how a 13-yr old boy took over her story, how she lived his experience, and even how she misses him now that the book is “out there”
So go be kidnapped by characters; let them show you the way to the end. Just a warning: the process also comes with mile-high drafts, buckets of sweat and tears, emotional ups and downs, and slings and arrows.
Wonder who I will meet in my next book?