First up, is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. Here’s what Parker has to say . . .
Many of my stories are character driven--which means I'm constantly surrounded by . . . you guessed it . . . characters.
So the question comes up regarding how these personalities come to life. Do I plan them in advance? Do they spring into being in the moment? How do I keep track of them?
Take Essie Brightsday, a young blind girl and the protagonist of A Hero's Curse. How did she get here?
Read more here.
Find Parker's site here.
Now, lets see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has for us this time around . . .
I tend to flesh out a few key characters briefly, but they grow from that organically. Every now and then random characters stroll into the story uninvited. I am not a fan of those “Get to Know Your Character” worksheets with a bazillion trivial questions, but I occasionally find them helpful when a necessary character refuses to take shape.
I do not have a shortage of inspiration. There are just so many interesting real people and characters from stories and movies from which I can pick little details! For example…
Read more here.
Occasionally, I create a character around someone from real life. In truth, that usually happens when I have something to say that might not be so nice to say . . . Oh, the fun of getting to speak my mind through the pages of my fantasy adventures!
With all that, most characters are not quite so central to a story. Often the real fun here is in introducing someone whose presence the story requires, and then waiting to see what he or she does. From time to time, a party will so surprise me, that I have to give him or her a much more important role than I’d originally intended.
All this is to say that for the most part, for me, characters develop as the story progresses. But even then, there are no hard and fast rules . . .
As to keeping track of characters, that’s another matter altogether. Whether I’m writing in a “word” program, or with Scrivener, I keep a constant record of any new character when I introduce the person. If I share physical characteristics, I make note of those. If I name them for a specific purpose, or because the name has a meaning of importance to me, I include that. As things move on, I add notes about the type of weapon the person uses, where the person is from, the names of his/her parents or siblings, or even of the horse the person rode in on (should any of those things come to be shared).
I use my characters lists regularly, to keep the details of my characters true throughout. I also include notes of things I think they will do, or purposes I expect they will serve in the future. And it’s a good thing that I do, too, because sometimes those issues are of extreme importance later—and had I not noted them, I might otherwise have forgotten them!
For example, when I started book three of The Oathtaker Series, (now—finally—with a title, namely, Ephemeral and Fleeting), I was stuck at the very beginning. There was a key issue that I had to resolve before I could even get through the first scene. In fact, I’d known details of that scene for some time. I knew it was unquestionably the way the story had to open—even though I was saddened by what was going to happen. But I had to resolve a central problem in order to complete that scene. I struggled for the answer. Then, when looking back at an old character list, there it was, in bold black and white. I discovered that, years prior, I’d made notes of the answer to the central issue/problem, not only of that opening scene, but of the entire tale. From the second I discovered my old note, it took me all of five months to write the almost 140,000 word tale—the crux of which depended on that note. So, most certainly, I do keep such a list! I cannot imagine writing without one!
How about you? Do you write? What tools do you use for character development?