My Self-Publishing Journey
Join me as I navigate the world of self-publishing from beginning to end, idea to published work.
Getting to Know Characters
I finished editing the first draft of Insomnolex last weekend, at least on paper. I still need to transfer those changes to the computer and work on add scenes and drawing character development out but overall I'm happy with the story.
Something else has me distracted though. A new story idea that came to me one night while I lay awake listening to my husband's slow and steady breathing (thinking how unfair it was that he can fall asleep in five minutes but it takes me anywhere from 20-40 minutes of tossing and turning). It was a simple thought that it would be interesting to take a kid, a boy, and stick him on an island inhabited only by a society of children. That was it and now the story is taking off like a train, slowly at first but gaining speed with each word I write.
At first I was concerned with getting to know the characters. This is usually how my stories come to be. Me and my mom have often discussed the fact that as along as you have interesting characters that the reader becomes thoroughly invested in, you can have a mediocre plot and still have the book be a great success. However, having a mediocre characters, even in an above average plot, definitely has a smaller impact on the reader. Reader's bond with the characters and want to feel like they are right there with them. Which is why having interesting and unique characters can make all the difference in a story.
Take Satine, or Sarah Dupree for instance. She's one of my characters from a novel I have been working on for about three, almost four years now. The novel is in its fifth draft and I hope to edit it one more time before entering it into a competition, which I think I have already mentioned from another post. Anyway, Sarah is a stripper in New York City and while that might not seem interesting to begin with, she has a set of morals that she stands by even though she is a stripper, (and no this is not the story of the stripper with a heart of gold). But that story started with a character who is a stripper and how interesting it would be to have her be friends with an LDS man from Salt Lake City, Utah. Already we have a contradiction or an oxymoron of sorts (if you don't know why this is an oxymoron, do some research on the LDS church at lds.org). Contradictions are very interesting in stories but especially with characters.
So I normally start with a character that I am interested in and I take a few days to flesh them out a little and get to know them. How they think, how they act, how they talk, etc. I don't go into an enormous amount of detail because I'm still getting to know them and I don't expect them to tell me their deepest darkest secrets until I've begun writing the book. Once I have them fleshed out enough I start writing. As the words flow out, more of the character is revealed and I am able to see them even more clearly.
Right now I'm very excited to be working on a story that, as I said, started with a simple thought while I was tossing and turning one night. The next morning I woke up and started to get to know the boy who I will be working with for the next couple of months (thank heavens for summer vacation). I didn't know his name at first, actually I didn't know his name until today and I started writing the beginning of this story two nights ago (again while I was jealous of my husband falling asleep in five minutes). I do know his name now, however, and that is Scott. He is fourteen years old, will eventually meet a character named Angela (who may not be what I originally thought she would be), and will end up on said island inhabited solely by children. He is in the foster care system and has been in and out of homes since he was two years old. That in and of itself makes him an interesting character to me. I don't know how this story will go exactly and I don't have a solid ending yet either (I hardly ever do). I've started researching foster care and what it's like and I don't think I will ever be qualified to write about Scott, not really. But I have to try, because his story deserves to be told. Every characters story deserves to be told and if I don't even attempt to write his story, it will never be told and he will be like the characters in Luigi Pirandello's play Six Characters in Search of an Author. A wonderful play by the way which everyone should read or see if they can.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't get to know my characters because I think of them as dolls I can boss around and make them do whatever I want. I get to know my characters like friends so that I can tell their stories to the best of my ability. So that, even though I am woefully unqualified, I can push through and when it comes time to edit their story for the world to read, it feels like I am being welcomed home by old friends. Of course that's destined to be the subject of a whole new blog post. So stay tuned for more of Scott, Angela, Sarah, and my plethora of other friends who will be joining me on this journey of a born writer who will try to not write carelessly.
~K. A. Jairl
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K. A. Jairl
My name is Kim and I'm glad you stopped by. This is where I post my triumphs and my downfalls as I fight the good fight of being a writer mom everyday.