Hey everybody! Happy Birthday – Writing Pearls! I thought we would celebrate with this month’s discussion being guest posts from people that Writing Pearls loves and appreciates. This week it’s from Jennifer Peel –
First of all, I would like to wish a Happy Anniversary to Writing Pearls! I have appreciated all of the support Jessica and her blog have given me over the year by reviewing my books. I’m honored to have been asked to write a guest post for the occasion.
Jessica suggested that I write about finding your voice. As someone who writes from the first person point of view, it is crucial to my stories that I nail that in each novel. I won’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but I’m honored to share some small insights about how I get to know and write my characters.
When I first start a novel, I spend a lot of time thinking about my main characters. Sometimes I will even lie on my bed and think about these people for an hour or more. I’ll even think about the conversations they have between each other. Some of those conversations get written down in the character journal I keep. From there, I begin to formulate key scenes. I also write an outline of those scenes, sometimes hand-written, sometimes typed, so I can reference it later. I think about what makes this character tick. What do I know about them that maybe even the reader won’t ever know? If I can, I physically visit the locations where some of these key scenes take place If I can’t, I’ll study them online. I also research everything I can about their profession. Sometimes, if possible, I will interview people that have that particular job. I’ve interviewed individuals in professions from teachers to political figures. Anything I can do to make these characters authentic.
When I begin to write, I remind myself this is their journey, not mine. Yes, I can use my life experience and I even imagine what it would be like to be them, but at the same time, I have to remember they are not me. I’ve written characters that have driven me crazy, and some I even hate, but that’s okay, because they have their own life. For example:
In my most recently released novel, my protagonist Kenadie was a hard sell on love, but Jason, her love interest, was seriously the best suitor ever. However, Kenadie couldn’t even see that Jason was interested in her. As the author, it drove me crazy. I so desperately wanted her to see it, because I was so in love with Jason myself. But again, it was her journey, not mine. I even knew, as I was writing her, that people were going to have an issue with her repeatedly rebuffing him and being clueless to how he felt, but that was okay. Again, it was Kenadie’s story, not mine. We shouldn’t be afraid to write characters that aren’t perfect, because newsflash, no one is.
It is okay in my opinion to let your character make their journey. We all want the satisfying end, but we can’t rush it. I’m not saying not to be cognizant of what the reader wants, but don’t sacrifice the story. Not everything has to be tied up in a perfect bow at the end, even in happy endings–and I’m a huge believer in happy endings, by the way.
It is very important to remember that you won’t please everyone. You can’t. So don’t even try. Sometimes I’m flabbergasted at what rubs people the wrong way, but I remind myself that their life experience is different than mine, and that’s okay. If you try to write your stories and characters based on what your critics have said or might say, it will stifle the process. I know this from experience.
My last piece of advice is to show as much as you can. Let your characters talk to each other. You can tell so much of the story through their conversations.
In the end, all I can say is, be true to yourself and your characters. And don’t be afraid to not only write, but delete, if and when necessary.
Happy Anniversary, Writing Pearls!