When you are constructing your imaginary worlds, the characters who inhabit them are as important as the setting. Picture a story with a great location, filled with flat boring characters, and you’ll get the idea. If you don’t care about the characters, or find them interesting, why keep reading? You could probably get away with exciting characters in a dull setting, but let’s face it, the best stories have both.
Where do characters come from? I’ve a recent example from my own experience. I was getting ready to write a sequel to The Queen’s Pawn. After I finished the original novel, I wrote down two sentences for plots I might use if I ever turned TQP into a trilogy. One sentence, one plot idea for another novel. Now that I’ve decided to proceed, the first thing I did was take the germ of the first idea, sit down and write all of the things I could think of that would relate to a book two. When I got that exercise out of my system, it was time to start writing.
I’m sitting at a table in a curling rink, drinking coffee and staring at my notebook. The first sentence is important and so is the opening scene. It’s one thing to know the central plot pivot, it’s another to get the blasted novel rolling. After a few false starts (I’m basically a pantser, not a plotter) I decided I would open by having the hero summoned to a meeting with the queen. Fair enough, someone had to come and get him. Basically a simple walk-on part and a character who might never be heard from again. I decided on a squire rather than a servant. What happened next was that the hero and the squire, on their own, started up a conversation as they walked through the castle. By the end of page two I knew the squire had graduated from a background actor to someone who may take on a supporting role. Who knows where that might lead him, and certainly nothing that appears in my notes.
When do characters you thought you were finished with re-appear? My fantasy detective series of novellas, The Housetrap Chronicles, is based on the adventures of the central character. Each novella is written as a stand-alone story. I have rather mad way of doing these. I create a bit of a mash-up for a title, then sit down and design the plot based around explaining the title. I was working on the fourth in the series (Murder in the Rouge Mort) and needed a protagonist, villain, to give my hero Randy grief. Back in book two (Dial M for Mudder) he was faced with a devious curvaceous assassin. Why not bring her back? Completely different plot. No sense in wasting a good bad character. She did quite well in her repeat performance. Along the way I added a couple of villains who may also re-appear someday. They were just too nasty to dispose of completely. I’ve finished volume six and I notice more characters re-appearing. That’s one benefit of doing a series. I also notice others, who were bit players, maybe with only a line or two, coming forward to demand more time on stage. Makes writing interesting.
Have fun with your characters. They can make the page come alive. Just don’t let them mutiny and take over the ship completely!
Just released this week, the first print Volume of The Housetrap Chronicles containing: Housetrap, Dial M for Mudder, and House on Hollow Hill
Medieval-style fantasies: The Housetrap Chronicles:
*The Dark Lady Housetrap Hounds of Basalt Ville
Knight’s Bridge Dial M for Mudder **Murder in the Rouge Mort
The Queen’s Pawn House on Hollow Hill **Treasure of the Sarah Madder
* Two sequels Dark Days and Dark Knights scheduled for release in March and August 2014
** Murder scheduled for release in July 2014, Treasure scheduled for October 2014