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How Do You Find Your Characters

Many years ago, I was like a shaky legged fawn stepping into the world of writing. I had written before, for myself and for my school newspapers, but this new world was totally different and scary as hell. I knew if I was going to survive I would need a strong man by my side so I began my search for the man I knew whose name was Hudson Alan Mitchel.

I searched every store, every street corner, and every office I entered, but I was always disappointed. Yes, there were plenty of men in all those places but none were Hudson.

This went on for months, during which time I began to write his story. It came to me like I was listening to his dreamy baritone voice over the radio. (Yes, at that time there was no podcasts or You Tube channels). Taking long walks and listening to him like we were connected by our cell phones, I learned what he liked and didn’t like. I discovered all of his dreams from childhood and on. I felt his angst over the burdens and problems he carried as a major league ball player. I became aware of whom he trusted and who would put a knife in his back because of his fame. And he revealed to me his most personal desires. He wanted a woman just like me. (Yes, when he told me that, it was a sigh worthy moment.) But sadly, I was blissfully married to my own hero and being the decent guy he was Hudson said he would always be my friend.

But I didn’t have an idea of what he looked like. I knew his heart but not his face.

He assured me that we would meet and soon.

I wanted to meet Hudson so much, face to face, and touch his cheek and let him know that I would do anything to find the woman of his dreams for him. I wanted him as happy as I was. Then, I thought why not start the search for Hudson’s dream woman right away. It would be so great to be the one to orchestrate their cute-meet.

One sunny afternoon, I sat on my patio, flipping through a catalog when Sileen Wright caught my eye. She had long, nutmeg brown hair and dark eyes like I did, but she had a cute button nose like Sandy Bullock and a body I’d need to exercise like ten hours a day for a year to achieve. But physical beauty wasn’t all Sileen had going on for her. Her smile reflected her warm heart and her witty sense of humor. She had a look that told you exactly how she was feeling.

I felt privileged when she told me about her family and her dreams to work for NASBO (National Association of Small Business Owners). However, I picked up on the sadness when she spoke about those dreams. She hid the sadness quickly and I didn’t pry. I knew who could help her figure out her problems­~the man who I trusted. They were perfect for each other.

Maybe a month after, Sileen and I met, I attended my first big writer’s conference at Penn State’s main campus. For three days, I learned more about the craft from great writers such as Merline Lovelace. ~I love Merline’s work and not because she gave me such great advice. Her writing is wonderful.~ Anyway, my critique partners and I stopped at a local café and while we enjoyed Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (I know, I know about the Creamery now!) Hudson appeared. It was love at first sight. Yes, I mean me. But at last, remember I was married. So, it was love at first sight for Sileen and Hudson and their story took off in my imagination.

After years, their story is now going out into the world and you all are among the first to know how Sileen and Hudson’s love affair started.  Perfect Fall is up on all venues for a preorder price of $.99 now.  It will release in four short weeks on July 18, 2017 at $4.99. Grab your copy today and if you feel like sharing the information with your friends, please do!

 

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To me the story is all about characters. Finding a picture of my characters and interviewing them is usually how I begin to learn the direction and theme of my stories. Where do you start? Do you just dive into write and learn about them as you go?  Do you use character charts?

 

 

Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. She loves writing both contemporary romance filled with chuckles and romantic suspense/mystery meant to keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing. Visit her website www.autumnjordon.com for information on all her works and to join her newsletter.

23 responses to “How Do You Find Your Characters”

  1. Process is so fascinating to me – we all approach our stories so differently! I feel like I build my characters, rather than find them, and I definitely construct them from the inside out. Their appearance really only matters insofar as the way they look impacts how they see themselves and how the world sees them. I usually have a pretty good idea of who they are before I start writing, but I don’t have spreadsheets or interviews or character sketches. I just have them in my head and they feel as real to me as any other friend.

    However we get there, I love seeing the way different writers attack character – and I love reading the end result! Congratulations on Perfect Fall! I’m so glad I got a sneak peek! It’s so charming! 🙂

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    • Ah, Thank you for being one of my reviewers. I’m so glad you enjoyed Perfect Fall.

      It’s funny how we all get to know our characters. Your way is like conversing with a pen-pal that you’ve never met. While my way is like a first date. Except for Hudson. We certainly were pen pals for months.

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      • I would argue that mine isn’t a conversation with a pen pal at all. I create them. I construct them. I build them. I don’t “meet” them the same way you do. To each her own! 🙂

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  2. jbrayweber says:

    Fascinating, Autumn. It’s so interesting how we all find/create/meet our characters. For me, I start with only an idea of who my characters are. As the story progresses, my characters reveal themselves. Sometimes I am surprised by them and who they become. Other times, they are familiar, like a good friend.

    Great post! Congrats and good luck on your newest release!

    Jenn!

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    • I know. Many, many times they take over like they’re the author of the story and reveal something I never would’ve imagined. I actually loves when that happens. I also wonder if they stay up longer than I do coming up what has to happen next. Lol

      Thanks, Jenn. This is the book of my heart. Where it all began.

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  3. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I’m kind of a plotser, so I write a skeleton of the plot first–maybe a dozen scenes–as if I were witnessing the scenes with the sound softened. I know almost nothing about the characters except their names. Then I interview the main character, ask her why things were happening as they did, and let her tell me everything I need to know.

    I did that yesterday with a wip. And she brain-dumped 3000 words in one evening. Now I know her, her family, and her friends.

    My process is slow and painful and probably a bit inefficient. But like everyone else, I love hearing other processes (even though I know they would never work for me.)

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    • I love inviting my characters into my house and interviewing them.(People~ you know, non-writers~ think I’m crazy.) It took me a few books to realize this was the best way for me to get to know them. Everyone has their method that works for them.

      Thanks for sharing your process!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      “Witnessing the scenes with the sounds softened”: yes!! This is really true for me, too. It’s like I’m eavesdropping, but not quite fully seeing or hearing everything.

      It makes me think of Wordsworth’s comment about poets’ relationship with the world: “both what we half create, and half perceive.”

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  4. For me, characters are the heart and soul of every story. I’ll forgive a lot of plot holes if the characters hook me.

    My new characters pop into my head at inconvenient times and usually in some High Def/Dolby Surround Sound-style scene.

    Then they leave it to me to (painfully) dig out backstory and hidden motivations.

    I’m soo excited for you and the new book, Autumn. Congratulations.

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    • Oh, thank you so much, Janet. You’re sweet.

      LOL We love our characters so much, don’t we? Why else would we put up with their quirks, shenanigans, like waking us at 2 a.m. to tell us something?

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  5. Darynda Jones says:

    You know his heart but not his face. I love this! That’s the best part.

    Character almost always comes first, and I’ve noticed that when that is not the case, I have a much harder time getting into the story. Character and story are inseparable in ways, but I still believe character is the most important aspect of any story.

    I am a plotter to a ridiculous degree, but I still don’t do character charts. Well, I do, but just the basics. I feel I need to know my characters in my heart, their motivations and interests, their philosophies and morals, before I can even begin a ms. People who dive in, aka pantsers, amaze me.

    Fascinating post, Autumn!

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    • I’ve seen your plotting. LOL I can’t do what you do. Simply amazing, but like you I agree characters have it over plot any day. I need to love the characters or I put the book down and don’t look back.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation.

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  6. What a fascinating topic, Autumn! I usually enter story through plot, so it’s no surprise that character development is a real challenge for me. More often than not, I discover and grow intimate with my protagonists through the wounds that drive their story transformations. For these wounds make them who they are and keep them from becoming who they need to be…which essentially leads to plot. 🙂

    Oddly enough, my sidekicks and villains are crystal clear in my head, their voices loud and booming from page one. Weird, huh?

    Oh, and congrats on the upcoming release of PERFECT FALL. On my way to pre-order!!!

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    • Oh, I know what you mean about your villains being clear. Mind too, in my romantic suspense. What does that say about us? YIKES!

      I love that you brought up wounds. Everyone has them, so matter what genre you write in your characters need to reveal their wounds to you. How else can we help them heal? Or should I say, how else can the heroine help them heal.

      Thank you for your insight and for pre-ordering Perfect Fall. I hope you enjoy it.

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  7. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    I really enjoyed reading this…the blog…your process…fleshing out what was in your mind’s eye…knowing exactly when that “perfect” (no pun intended, seriously) person showed himself/herself to you. I like Hudson and Sileen already:)

    It’s fascinating to me how the different characters evolve, grow, become real…and “show up at the door” at the most unexpected moments! Sometimes I feel like I need to invest in some water-proof paper since so many times I am in the shower or doing dishes and staring out the window when I hear that “tap,tap,tap” at the door of my imagination. I have no choice but to let my guest(s) come in for a visit.

    Congratulations on bringing this one to fruition, Autumn! Looking forward to reading it!

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    • “tap,tap,tap” at the door of my imagination < I love it. I know exactly what you mean about being interrupted in the shower. So many times, I get out and run for a pad and pencil before I towel off. That white noise does it to me all the time. Thanks for the support, Cynthia. I hope you enjoy Perfect Fall.

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  8. Congrats on Perfect Fall. This blog was so interesting, really enjoyed how you met your characters long before writing the book. And that explains why you know Sileen and Hudson so well!

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  9. Elisa Beatty says:

    Super interesting discussion!! I’m always amazed how different everyone’s process is….whether or not you can tell the difference when you’re actually reading the finished product.

    My characters definitely emerge early on. Usually I hear a conversation between them, and just get a “vibe” of their personalities. I never imagine them actually aware of or communicating with *me*, though. It’s more like I can see through a wall into their lives.

    I may not know a lot of detail at the start, but the “vibe” of the characters only gets stronger as I go, and I don’t dare try to force anything that doesn’t vibe with the vibe.

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    • Wow! I never thought about watching them, like a movie. Interesting. You’re so right. We take so many different paths, but in the end we’re all standing at the same gate.

      Thanks for sharing your process. Very interesting.

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  10. Debbie says:

    Hi Autumn: Wonderful blog, and great discussion. I knew his heart but not his face – Wow. I love it so much. My stories usually start with characters but then I put them through their paces (the first couple of chapters) and get to know them that way. Then rewrite. Now I’m working on a story where the plot came first. And I’m struggling a bit with the characters – especially my MC. I may have to do some character interviews. Can’t wait to read Perfect Fall.

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  11. Liz Talley says:

    Congrats on getting your two characters together. You’re the perfect matchmaker!

    I l love when characters show up out of the blue and speak to us. I would say most my story ideas come from an incident – some scene that pops into my head. Then I start thinking “Who would do this?” or “Who would help someone through this?” and then my characters show up and sort of take over.

    Great post!

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