Creating characters / writing humans.

I'm a writer. Yes, I am. More specifically, I am a hardcore unstoppable blogger, a freelance writer and a YA fiction author. 
Okay, yes, the latter is in the pipeline – she says as if she actually has any leads on anything.....shhh. 

I am forever creating characters. That's where a story begins, for me. I find someone, anyone – they could be my protagonist, a close friend of the antagonist, a parent, heck they might even be an innocent quiet bystander who plays no role in the story but fits perfectly with the tone I want...whatever, the characters always seem to happen first. Their plot comes in not long after. After I've spent a nice long time drawing them up in my mind, picking their go-to outfits, their favourite flavours of this and that, their pet peeves...then the plot starts to come. Eventually.
Also I find characters can misbehave when I'm writing. I'll have a set plan for a scene or an interaction (sometimes, not always. Okay, hardly ever) but as soon as I sit down to write, they'll run free and do their own thing – they'll say things I never had in mind, do things (sometimes with one another?!) that I hadn't necessarily envisaged, and ultimately reject any planning I had put in place originally. It's infuriating, and...fascinating.
I actually often get a new sub-plot or a good character development idea when that happens, so really I can't thank my nutty characters enough.
*I almost gave a personal shout-out to one character of mine here, then I realised that would be well and truly crossing the line into 'completely insane'. But seriously. M, I owe you.*

If I attend a book event at which I can ask an author I admire a burning question, you can be fairly sure it'll be about characters; how important they are to this author, where they get the ideas for characters from, where [specific character] came from and why they did what they did, etc. etc. I find their responses brilliant – all so different! Some start with characters, much like I do. Some need to have a plot firmly in place first, then they'll build a group of humans to slot into it and carry it all out. Some authors have even told me they weren't 100% sure on which character would do what until they were writing the last third of their book!? What madness. I cannot imagine that. 

Alwyn Hamilton, a rather fantastical friend who wrote Rebel of the Sands, told us yesterday at the Faber Children's blogger event that she started with an idea - a girl who could sharp-shoot - in a world that is wild west mixed in with Arabian nights type magic...she began writing within the world, with an idea of a character. Then from that, the characters grew and the story took shape. Such an interesting approach! (and it totally worked, Rebel is perfection)

Lauren James, another gorgeous friend and writer crush of mine, has posted something great on her Tumblr before - in amongst the amazing gifsets and anonymous answers, obvs - a reblog from the-right-writing, questions about your each of your characters. The things you should know about them. Questions include: what are they afraid of? what seemingly insignificant memories stuck with them? how do they feel about sex? what would they make a scene in public about? 

The characters in The Next Together, Lauren's magnificent debut, were all wonderful. Each little detail was a delight. Plus it can't have been easy to have several variations of the same characters scattered through time - and that was so well done it was a little mind-blowing...! 

Well, I still struggle with one or two of these questions, not gonna lie...but I've added a few of my own: What's their favourite film? What's their relationship like with their siblings? Would they ever have kids? If they could have one super-power, what would it be? 

Anyway, I find when creating a character I will always draw a little something I know, I know, big-headed af, right? I can't help it! I feel I have to identify with a character in some way – be it teeny or huge. Maybe the human I've made is a lifelong vegetarian, or fancies Dean Winchester, or has been to Australia, or used to be a heck of an Ultimate Frisbee player...maybe they just really, really hate peas! Who knows? There has to be something.

However, last night I was on a train home from London (specifically #DrinkYA, whoop whoop!) and I was unexpectedly taken in by the strangers surrounding me. Not in a creepy way, I promise. I wasn't peering at anyone – not obviously, anyway. I just enjoy sometimes getting a brief glimpse at people, gathering a little info on them just from their appearance – or maybe more personal stuff if/when they have a VERY loud phone conversation on a busy train and earn themselves a few dirty stares.
The commuters always interest me. I am the daughter of one, after all. I enjoy watching the suited-up fellas going about their days – super tense or completely asleep first thing in the morning, then dangerously wired or just dead tired en route home in the eve. I could not commute. I don't identify with the commuters. Nope. Not at all.
So why did I find a character in one of them...?! It's a mystery. Yet here he is.


Telegraph paper. Crime novel, dark leather bookmark cut in the shape of a lion sticking out of it. These are the things that land on the table when this new person appears beside me at the next stop after I got on. He sits, and I automatically glance to my right. I need to be aware of his face, for some reason...he has a hairy nose. And thick glasses. Silver hair. He's slurping from a takeaway Starbucks cup. When he puts it down, I see it says JAMES in lazy scrawling marker. Of course, he will have got that at Waterloo East right before he got on the train. The 'decaf' box on the side has a cross through it.
For the next few stops, he's chuckling openly at his paper. He grabs a blue pen and circles The Lion King West End ad. Then he finishes reading that very quickly, folds it up and puts it on the empty table across the aisle. He promptly seizes the crime novel, and I can tell he's immediately absorbed. So much so that he doesn't notice the crowds on the train thinning out, more seats coming free, including the seat across from me...yet he's staying beside me. I thought it was a commuter code to move the second another seat comes free, if you're next to someone. No? Okay then.
I reckon he'll get off at Tunbridge Wells. I bet you. He has that vibe. Oh wait, no...he's still on as we go through there. He eventually gets off at Etchingham. How funny. I would not have called that. 


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