Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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My Playlist

If you’ve been following along, you know I wrote a novel that’s been workshopped in Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars contest. My story takes place behind the scenes on a rock band’s road tour. It features roadies! rock stars! women in the industry! managers! fans! models, Irish wolfhounds, load-in, load-out, backline techs, tour buses, hotels, extravagance, heartbreak, heartache, lies, deception, true love’s first kiss… and oh, yeah, music. Even though I can’t share the music in my mind from my pretend rock band, I can share the real-world music pivotal to the story.

Each of the primary characters have their own theme songs. My main characters get two each, just because. Continue reading

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I can’t be the only one who does this, can I?

Writing is an extension of acting for me, and I’ve always been a method actor. Obviously I’m not going to do everything my characters do (that would be stupid), but when I write them, I have to feel what they’re going through. If I can’t channel that aspect of the character, I can’t write them convincingly.

I’m not alone in this, right? I mean, making up characters and holding the baton that dictates their lives is a little bit crazy to start with. I guess there’s no harm in adding more to it.

On Twitter the other day, I said sometimes it’s hard to be myself when all these other characters want their turn in the spotlight, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I meant it. I love what I do.


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I love writing.

I was sitting here reading over today’s words and was happily struck by how much I love writing. I love the world I created, the characters who inhabit that world, their circumstances and quirks and imperfections. I’m having such a blast with this book that I smile when I read it, and that’s not something that always happens.

It isn’t that I sit around patting myself on the back, being too self-congratulatory. I did have a moment, though, and I figured that was worth sharing. It’s times like this that remind me why I do what I do, and remind me that the act of creating something new can be so much fun.


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My characters are jealous of each other.

You’ve got a story, or a novel, or maybe three. The one you’ve been working on most recently is by all means your favorite. You love it to pieces, love the characters, are invested in their well-being and their future… and then a nagging voice from beyond says but what about me, that novel you almost but didn’t quite finish? You put me away to percolate, but guess what? The pot is boiling and it’s about to overflow. Come rescue me!

I’ve never been that great at prioritizing. Trying to do everything at once isn’t the best way of getting by, but a bit here and a bit there? Why not? Part of it is the very real worry of losing a character’s voice and momentum if I put them aside to work on something else. Part of it is an in-my-brain pseudo dating jealousy among my characters (“she likes ME best, so there!”). It’s bad enough when it’s just one book, but three? I have an entire geography rattling around in my brain. I tell myself, “maybe if I get to Continent A I can spend enough time there to finish one quest, then I can move on to…”

It’s like a video game with multiple storylines, and I have to decide which to tackle first. This is not the least pleasant scenario I can imagine, but it’s awfully crowded!

Crowded. That’s the title of another book I was going to get back to. Hmm, maybe if I squeeze a little time away from my latest…


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Full Disclosure

…I just realized that would be the perfect name for this book I’m writing. Wow. I might have to use that.

My full disclosure, though, was over the fact that against my better judgment, the story I’m writing is a love triangle romance. I’ve tried writing romances before and have failed. As a writer I have a much more evil streak than I do as an everyday human being. I like to put my characters into all manner of peril and tighten the ropes around their necks. It follows that most of my stories take a twist to the dark side of human emotions, and that doesn’t make for a very happy happily-ever-after or happy-for-now conclusion.

The task I’ve set for myself with this one is to let it be complicated but not unnecessarily ugly, to let the characters be themselves without me forcing them into contrived situations. It’s always seemed to me that falling in love is a perilous enough thing, and managing to stay in love is even more difficult. For my protagonist, that emotional journey is just as fraught with peril as the process of learning to be an adult. No, I’m not coupling a coming-of-age story on top of this. Enough’s enough, and my protagonist is in her early twenties already.

There will be no half-naked men with overly sculpted abs on this front cover. No werewolves, vampires, wizards, zombies, or other paranormal beings (although I reserve the right to use a good old-fashioned ghost if need be). There’s no time travel, no alien from another galaxy. Just humans being spectacularly human, and what I suspect could be classified as a moderate degree of heat.

I’m not sure I know what I’m doing, but I’m having a lot of fun finding out whether or not I’ll succeed. At least my characters have all started springing nicely to life, with distinct personalities, quirks, wants, and needs. I can’t ask for a whole lot more than that!

Fellow writers, how’s your work going? Most importantly, are we having fun yet?


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Characterization

Where do you find inspiration for characterization? Does a character come to you fully realized, presenting themselves as if you were meeting for the first time at a party? Do you get snippets of understanding about them that deepen over time? What tools do you use to round out your character’s personality?

From the time I was young, I’ve had a strong interest in astrology. One of my favorite tools to use in writing is determining a character’s astrological work-up (this of course requires more than a passing familiarity with the subject). Once I’ve done that, I can go to my favorite reference book, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, and use her insight as a way of rounding out my character’s personality. Yes, the book is dated, but her descriptions are vivid and wonderful and if you see her work the way I do, you’re presented with at least two dozen fully fleshed-out character studies.

Another fun tool is the Meyers-Briggs assessment. For me, this is better in retrospect than when I’m actively trying to create a character, but it gives me as a writer plenty to think about: introvert or extrovert? Sensing or intuition? Thinking or feeling? Judging or perceiving? What a wealth of detail we can bring to the page simply by deciding which of these tendencies are strongest in our characters.

I’ve also been known to use enneagrams to flesh out my characters, but since that’s a tool with which I’m less familiar, I tend not to use it as often (I’m much more at ease with numerology if we’re going by numbers).

There are so many other tools out there to help make characters realistic. What are your favorites? Which ones have I missed? And finally, how many hours have you spent taking online personality quizzes as your character(s)?


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Stubborn minor characters!

Happy start to the new year, everyone. I’ve been busy editing, just finishing a pass on the current novel. As I go through (and as I get feedback from first readers), I’m always fascinated to see which of my characters really shine. They’re not always the protagonist and I find that fascinating.

One thing I’ve been doing during this edit process is a little bit of redistribution. I realized that a lot of important things were being relegated to two of the supporting cast when really, those things needed to be spread around. I’m very good at keeping a cast of characters small, but less good at including more people in more important ways. When I go back and read, that brings to light the question of whether those other characters are necessary. In this book they are, so I needed to give them more to do.

Do you writers ever find minor characters stealing the limelight? It happens to me all the time. (Sometimes I just write them their own books afterward. That way, everybody’s happy.)