Getting to Know My Cast

Happy Friday! What better day than this to share some writing inspiration—and perhaps inspire us to make use of some the weekend to further our works-in-progress.racehorse-152697_640

I would have made a bad racehorse. My writing on a new project tends to start out like hellfire: I get a fabulous idea, a great premise for a story, and there I go—bang!—out of the starting gate with all the speed of Affirmed or American Pharaoh. I’m banging away at the keys in a fevered frenzy, the first ten thousand words or so flowing out of my imagination with effortless exuberance.

But then I get to page fifty or so. My burst of writing energy gets winded. And just like a racehorse who leads the pack until he reaches the first turn, I find, sadly, I’m out of gas.

Why does this happen to me? Because although I began with a great story premise, I never really had a story to begin with. Just a story idea.

This doesn’t happen to plotters, who carefully outline their projects and know exactly (or pretty close to exactly) what’s going to happen in Chapter Two and Chapter Fifteen and at The End. I’ve never been able to write that way: out of a box. I’m a confirmed pantser. Perhaps because the other side of my life, my day job, is in scientific research. There I am ruled by outlines and protocols. I find them confining. They are a quick kill for my creative muse.cube-1002897_640

The same muse who finds herself scratching her head around page fifty. We both (she and I) know how the story ends, but getting from that first turn and on toward the finish line is like trying to cross the Rocky Mountains on horseback—with no guide, limited rations, and in January.

This time, I’m trying a new tactic. I’ve acquired some help. I figured, who better to help me write my story than the people most closely involved in it: my characters?

So before I began writing my current WIP, I selected four of the most prominent characters in my book and decided to interview them. I didn’t use a template of pre-determined questions I found in some writing book. I just created an imaginary scene, in the place where my book is set and where my characters live, and met them at various places. I started by taking my heroine out for lunch at a lovely cafe in downtown Tampa overlooking the waterway.

And you know what? A funny thing happened. First, I got to know her—I had no idea she had a Southern accent! She also seemed the very reserved, nervous type—what is she hiding? She exhibited some character-unique tics and mannerisms she will carry throughout the book.

When I followed my imaginary heroine back  to her place of work, a strange man walked in and encountered us in the lobby—not the hero. This guy was sort of sinister-looking, not terribly warm, and looked at my heroine like she was lunch. He was her coworker and superior, but I have the feeling his intentions will become much more intense as the story progresses.bat-2029809_640

My story has an antagonist. One I never planned on.

It’s either an amazing trick of the imagination, or a mental illness, but by simply creating a scene in which to interact with one of my characters, an entirely new facet of my story revealed itself. I highly recommend the practice. You never know who will walk in on you as you get to know your character.

I can’t wait to see what happens when I interview my hero.

This time, I think I may just make it to the finish line a whole lot easier.

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~~~

Claire Gem writes supernatural suspense and contemporary romance. She recently released an Author’s Resource Book, The Road to Publication, which you can find along with all her other books on her Amazon Author Page.

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10 thoughts on “Getting to Know My Cast

  1. vicki says:

    I hope you make it to the finish line! I’m writing a new short story and a character revealed something to me unexpectedly. I am able to expound on it and use for more conflict. Good stuff when that happens.

    Like

  2. Pat Amsden says:

    I used to be a panster like you. Only I thought I wasn’t! I had a barebones outline which basically covered the beginning and the end and, like you, tended to run out of gas about page 50. Now I throw in subplots and more details about the characters but I think the character interviews are a great idea.

    Like

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