Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created-nothing.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
For the novel that you are writing pick your characters first, as they are harder to pick than a story. In his book on writing the legendary book editor Thomas McCormack writes, “There is no doubt in my mind that the choice of the cast of characters is the most important decision the novelist makes, and that the choice cannot be optimally informed without attention to how they plug into one another, their circuitry.”
When writing, the plot may or may not change, but the characters will develop and have lives of their own. As your characters develop, they’ll take on distinct personalities, and as with good friends, you’ll know in certain situations what they will or will not do.
Mystery writer Oakley Hall says that a writer must “listen to the demands of his characters, who, as they begin to come to life, may insist upon a different fate than the givens seem to require.”
Also realize that characters are not wooden people who just dropped magically out of the sky. They are critical elements of the drama you are creating. They must do something logical or illogical (which is what plot is all about) that adds to your story, and moves it to its ultimate climax. Never, never separate characters from plot.
The reader has to believe that your characters exist or could exist – and they need to be distinctively drawn. And nothing better defines characters than their actions, their purpose in life. Their purpose may be good or evil. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the reader sees their actions and purpose, believes them, and is continuously interested in them.
Writing Trick: Do not write a story peopled with a cast of thousands. Write a tale about one, two or three memorable characters, all of them filled with purpose.
Your assignment: Think of the types of characters you want to write about. Concentrate on two main characters and one minor character. Start taking notes about them, what they are like. Get them fixed in you mind. Write a short paragraph about each of them and pin those descriptions to your wall so that you can see them at a glance.
Writing Log: Words Written ____