Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Developing characters, one puzzle piece at a time

Being a good liar takes practice.

How do I know? Because every time I sit down to work on a novel, I get to alter the truth to suit my character's needs, the way a prism bends light to create a colorful rainbow pattern on a wall.

Before we can have lies that might move a work of suspenseful fiction along, though, we need to have characters. For me, this exercise is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing: I enjoy selecting what a "person's" habits are (the good and the bad), what a bad hair day looks like, or what type of work the character does plus so much more -- and how it all fits together as pertinent pieces of a puzzle that becomes the story. For instance, is one of his or her bad habits going to be a catalyst for trouble? Or perhaps exactly the opposite. As each character trait comes to life, the character on a page becomes nearly real -- or at least real enough to me that I can write the story I'm intended to write about that person.

Today's exercise includes researching local coffee shops where my main character, Lily, might frequent. This requires me to identify where she works, how close it is to said coffee shop, traffic patterns, downtown walking routes, etc. Oh, yes, and I get to pick what flavor she likes. Only problem is, I'm not a coffee drinker. I love the smell, but hate the taste. So, I'll have to enlist the help of others for that puzzle piece.

Trivial? Maybe, in the minds of some; but what if ... on the way to or from the favorite coffee place, Lily meets someone important to the story? What if ... the coffee shop is out of her favorite coffee (gasp!), and she has to try something else? Did I mention she's a creature of habit and she's going to freak out just a bit about having to change (that's scary!)?? Did I mention she's a bit misanthropic, so meeting people on the street is not comfortable for her and may make her change her daily route (another change; another gasp!)? And, that while she's rerouted, she slips into an antique shop she's never been in before and finds something of value to helps to make sense of a particular sub-story problem in her life?? Oh, the possibilities! Oh, the fun of it all!

So, any suggestions about the type of coffee? I truly have no idea what she'll be drinking. :-)

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