A special hello to Jennifer, who emailed to say she’s an aspiring writer. Here’s her quesion: do you define your characters before you write, physical and character details, or let them develop as you write?
A: Both. Usually, I’m getting to know a character for weeks, if not months or years, before I write about them. When I begin the story, I have a fairly comprehensive but also generalized vision of the characters, the situation, etc., but my characters invariably develop as the book unfolds and they often surprise me–and I love it when that happens.
That’s my method, but I hasten to add that there is no one “right” way to plan characters–I work organically, with one thing growing out of another. Something happens, a character responds to it, and so on. Here’s the most valuable advice I can give an aspiring writer (besides the obvious, which is write, and you wouldn’t believe how often that particular step gets overlooked): Be willing to write badly until you learn to do it well. Perfectionism is the enemy–and after all these years, it’s still a struggle I face every day.
Only God is perfect. The rest of us have to be satisfied with doing our best and letting that be okay. When you get right down to it, after all, “good enough” is plenty in most cases–and it sure beats doing nothing at all.
Bernice and I took a nice walk today. No snow. (YES!) The Yorkster is downright perky these days, thanks to her medicine, and that lights up my heart.