Monday, October 21, 2013

My Crazy Process: Creating Side Characters

So in preparation for this year's NaNoWriMo, I've been hammering out my new book. Think Salem Witch Trials + Book of Job + a pandemic plague, all on an abandoned, near-future Galveston Island. Most of the book takes place in a religious commune and I want this community to feel solid and real.

I've had some trouble coming up with side characters (aka, the members of the commune), but I finally figured out a process.
Piles of people!

Now, I admit it looks kind of crazy. It's the kind of stuff that might raise questions in more stable-minded folk. But I gathered almost 150 pictures of random people - all ages, genders, races, etc. - cut them out and started making families out of them.

I'm totally normal, right? Right.

I think the reason this has really helped me is that I'm a visual person. I've had "concept photos" of my main characters since the beginning. Looking at a person's face helps me envision an entire life for them. Helps me figure out who they are. A face is the starting point. Give me that and I can create an entire world.

I know a lot of people don't function like this. They're less visual or perhaps just less OCD. That's great.

This is the kind of background work that often isn't obvious in a finished novel, but even if you don't memorize the charts, even if you don't keep track of who is related to whom and how they got there, I hope I can give you a depth. The impression of a real community - of real people who live and love and work together through all the trials that I will undoubtedly put them through.

No comments:

Post a Comment