Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway contest! Fiona was the lucky winner, and now I have plenty of great suggestions for blog posts. I’ll be answering them over the next few days so stay tuned, and check back to see the answer to your question. And if these answers spark any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments! But try to avoid spoilers if you’ve read the books! Todays Q&A is all about writing characters.
“Do you ever find your characters rebelling against you? I’ve heard about writers talking about their characters taking on a life of their own and starting to behave in ways that surprise or perplex the writer. Have you ever experienced that?” (Vanessa)
Definitely – but not always in a good way. Cedar and I in particular went head-to-head on a number of occasions. They say you should just let your characters be who they are, but Cedar wanted to be a whiny, self-absorbed, passive bitch far too much of the time. She was a shockingly unsympathetic character for at least the first three drafts. It just took me that long to really get inside her head, to figure out what was truly driving her and how she would actually respond to the obstacles I was placing in her path. Once I figured that out, her personality improved in spades and she and I got along swimmingly.
“Have you ever started writing about a character, and found that through your writing, their personality changed, and it somehow was better than you imagined?” (Melanie)
Yes! Cedar’s best friend Jane came out totally
differently than I had first imagined her. I thought she was going to be this career-obsessed, hard-nosed workaholic who would push Cedar to put her career before her family, but she just came out on paper as this edgy, sweet, funky spark of a thing who just loves Cedar and wants to see her happy. Much, much better than I had originally intended.
“How long did it take you to find your characters, as opposed to characters who could never be fleshed out?” (Jennifer)
Almost all of my main characters were with me from pretty close to the beginning, once I had roughly decided what the story would be about. I made a “character wheel” – Cedar at the centre, and then spokes going out to the other characters: a best friend, a love interest, her daughter, her mother, the villain, etc. Then along the spokes I wrote how each secondary character (a) represented an aspect of Cedar’s personality and (b) tied in with the theme of the novel. So each character had an important role to play from the beginning, and even though both Cedar’s personality and the theme of the novel changed during the writing process, the characters all remained (although their own personalities and their interaction with Cedar shifted). It was more a matter of adding new characters than dropping ones who couldn’t be fleshed out. Brighid and Deardra were both surprise characters who came out of the plot development rather than representing aspects of the theme and Cedar’s personality.
Here’s a picture of one of my first (and very rough) character wheels, back when Jane was a stuffy workaholic called Christine and Riona was an unnamed “friend in the Tuatha De Dannan”:
And here’s a much more interesting one from Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN, taken from the book “On Filmmaking” by Alexander Mackendrick.
“Which character in your book is your favourite and why?” (Andrea)
That’s such a hard question. I had the most fun writing Brighid because she’s so confident and over-the-top. I’d love to write more of her story someday. But as for the main characters, I think I like Nuala the best. She comes across as this cold-hearted bitch, but what she wants most in the world is for someone to love her just as she is. Isn’t that what we all want deep down inside?
Jodi McIsaac is the author of Through the Door, the first book in a new urban fantasy series inspired by Celtic mythology. Buy it now on Amazon.