Good question. Not sure I have an answer. I’m not very systematic about it—probably not something I should be confessing in public (LOL).
Sometimes I have a very clear image of who my character is, what they want, and what stands in their way. In Two Lethal Lies, Mitch came in loud and clear. I knew what he looked like, I knew what he cared about and why.
Other times, I have to struggle to find who the character is. In Dead Shot, for example, I could not get a handle on my heroine, Gillian Gray. I knew her back story and that she was a damaged soul, but I couldn’t get into the true heart of her. Frustrated and stalled, one day I just started writing her thoughts—from her point of view. I wrote in the first person, “channeling” her almost. What came out was a very distinctive voice, and its cynical, imagine-the-worst-then-watch-it-happen tone not only let me in on her secrets, it gave me a great foil for the hero to play against.
In writing workshops I hear a lot about exercises to help create character—from extensive like/dislike lists, to deeper psychological probes (what’s your character’s greatest fear/joy?), to techniques like interviews. You can even give your character personality tests like Myers-Briggs! My problem is, I could do all those really well--but only after I’ve finished the book.
That’s because for me, part of the process of writing is uncovering some of my characters wants and needs. In Two Lethal Lies, for example, the only thing I knew about my heroine, Neesy Brown, was that her record with men wasn’t great. It took writing about her, putting her in situations and seeing how she reacts--getting to know her—for me to uncover her unstable relationship with her father, and her desire for and simultaneous fear of breaking free.
I’ve had readers ask me if my characters “talk” to me. Not to get all weird and whacky here, but I suppose they do in a way. In Blind Curve, I could not for the life of me come up with a name that suited my hero, a police detective. I might still be thumbing through the phone book if I hadn’t decided to start writing anyway, using a placeholder name until I could figure out something better. In the first chapter, my hero is doing an undercover gun buy-back (buying an illegal gun to get it off the street). He introduces himself to the seller, and wham—out came a name I’d never heard of or considered—Danny Sinofsky. To this day I have no idea where that name came from, except, of course, Danny himself...
I suppose it would be better if I knew everything about my characters from the beginning, but my brain, my muse—whatever you want to call it—doesn’t work that way. So I take whatever I know—name, rank, or serial number—and start from there. I’m always surprised to see what I discover during the course of the story. But when I do learn something new, I inevitably go, “of course” because it makes sense, deepens my connection with the people about whom I’m writing, and, hopefully, enriches the reader’s experience.
In the end, I feel more like a sculptor than a painter—I reveal the shape hidden by the marble, rather than impose a shape onto the canvas. All I can say is, it works for me. I hope it works for my readers, too!
Annie, thank you so much for sharing one of your secrets! I'm sure your new book is going to be a tremendous success. I sure enjoyed it, check out my review below! I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and visit with us here at One Book Shy.
AUTHOR/EDITOR: Annie Solomon
INFO: Paperback, Fiction, 400 pages
PUBLISHED: Forever Romance, Hachette Books, 2010
HOW'D I GET IT: Received from Publisher for Book Tour and Review
FROM GOODREADS: A love to die for...
On the run since his daughter was born, Mitch Turner has concealed a truth so dangerous, its discovery could jeopardize both their lives. But when a series of shocking murders hits their new found home, the trail leads straight to Mitch. With the police out for blood and his daughter ripped from his arms, he has nowhere to turn--until a beautiful stranger offers her help.
Neesy Brown has made mistakes in her life, yet she refuses to believe this mysterious man is a killer. There's a strength in his broad shoulders that draws her to him and a weariness in his eyes that she longs to ease. As the murders tear her small town apart, she vows to help Mitch find his missing child. But a cunning predator is pulling them deeper and deeper into his fatal game. And the price of losing is the child--and the future--they could both share...
MY TAKE: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ms. Solomon is a master at creating and building the suspense that keeps you hooked right up to the very end. It was one of those books that you don't want to put down because you're afraid you're going to miss out on something. I read it in one afternoon simply because I couldn't wait to see how it ended.
The three main characters of Mitch, Julia, and Neesy are very believable and likable. You get into and feel a part of their story right away. You can't help but feel empathy for Mitch in his desire to keep Julia safe and his unwillingness or even, inability to trust anyone. The author gives you enough information to know that there is something not quite right about their situation, but not quite enough to really figure it out too fast.
Mitch's reluctance to trust Neesy or any of the other people who were trying to help them was understandable. Of course, it was just as reasonable and expected for Neesy to be drawn to him and Julia and want to be a part of their family unit. I really liked all of the dynamics that were coming into play with the three of them as well as several of the other characters such as the Blunts, especially the uptight-ish Hannah. She turned out to be a rather interesting character who I really wouldn't mind hearing more about.
This gripping read has all of the right elements to make it great: (1) characters - yummy heroic leading man, sweet and caring lovely lady, bright and mischievous kid, extremely bad and creepy villain, and an interesting supporting cast; (2) plot - twists and turns that leave you guessing; and (3) substance - you want more when it's over.
MY RATING: 4.5/5
Courtesy of Ms. Solomon and Hachette Books, we have a copy of Two Lethal Lies to give away to TWO of our readers here at One Book Shy. Rules are simple:
- Open to FOLLOWERS of One Book Shy
- Must have a US or Canada mailing address
- NO PO Boxes please
- One prize per household
- Just leave a comment on this post and tell us if you drink your hot chocolate WITH or WITHOUT marshmallows?
- Drawing will close on 10/20/10 at midnight PST.
- Winners will be randomly chosen and have 48 hours to respond with their mailing information. Books will be mailed by the publisher.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, The Book Depository, or Indie Bound
~~~~~ Disclaimer: All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own. I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links. I may receive books in order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one. Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.