As I sat around thinking to myself what am I going to blog about this week, an idea came to me. I’m always being asked two questions when people find out I’m a writer. The first being, where do you come up with your ideas, and the second one always seems to be… So, how do you…uh…write?
Both of those are good questions. I’ve covered the ideas thing already, but both are so closely intertwined it’s hard to blab on about one without talking about the other. I could generalize the whole process but decided to explain my writing process using my current work in process, Bite Mark Books Two: Bite the Neck that Loves You. So, you’re entering the book from the beginning. For those of you who have been with me since Love Bites came out, this may be a treat, or it could turn you off the series completely. Either way, here goes.
First, I have to get into the mindset of whichever series I’m working on. This is scary but currently I’ve got five series going. True some of them are interconnected in my created universe, but each of the series are defined by the boundaries of the characters and the story already set in play. It takes a lot to take your head out of a female werewolf’s mind and toss it into a Vampire’s. The same is true for writing in first person and switching it into third. Feel free to ask my editor how many times I’ve done it and she’s had to write me nicely worded comments on the subject.
Okay, let’s assume I’ve switched gears and am ready to begin writing. I’ve just finished Scrolls of Eternity, a superhero young adult book. It was written in third person, so I’ve got my first person hat on. That means I must be ready to start work. Right?
No. before I begin any book, I’ve got to have my hero and heroine firmly set in my head. Especially, my heroine! The entire book is coming directly through her eyes. Luckily, the whole series is already plotted– a new concept for me. But, being me, I’ve already complicated things. Toward the end of Bite the One You’re With, I discovered that the book that was originally book three needed to be book two. Sucks to be me. On the bright side, I already have an outline and my two main characters, so I’m still good.
Wait! Where do these two dude and dudettes come from?
Good question. Who asked that? Oh, it doesn’t matter. Franki, or Francesca, was an addition to the Love Bites mythos in Bite Marks Book One, and is based loosely– my lawyer made me say that — on a friend of mine. Huh? So, you’re just ripping off people’s lives and throwing them into your books? No, it isn’t like that at all. For me getting into the minds of my characters, I need to know who they are. Love them completely, as I do my friends, so I tend to picture my friends when I craft a character. If you’re a writer, or thinking about becoming one, that should be lesson one.
Rule 1: Know thy character so completely they should become as real as possible.
On a side note, this asking and answering my own questions, is starting to give me a split personality complex. That last bit aside, once you’ve established who you’re writing, it helps you come to grips with how they’re going to react to the situations you’re about to throw at them. And, am I ever going to throw some crap at them.
Back to my hero, now. Alexandre is based on another friend of mine. I also knew I wanted him to be a musketeer. Why? Because my favorite fictional book of all time is The Three Musketeers, in no small part to the movie of the same title staring the incomparable Michael York. The best version of the movie ever if you ask me.
Come on! Basing a character solely on that seems silly. Silly it might be, but it gives me the qualities I saw in Alex when I thought of him for this book. Nobility, honor and a higher sense of duty. This time around I actually wanted a knight in shining armor as my hero. Of course, there’s no armor, but you get the idea.
Having characters before I even begin thinking about a plot or what the book is even about might sound funny to some of you. To me, doing it any other way is backwards. If you don’t have a complete sense of your characters, it doesn’t matter how great a story is, your readers won’t empathize with your hero and heroine. They can’t.
Before I even thought about my book, I knew Franki. I knew her strengths, her faults and most importantly the pain that drove her. I also knew that Alexandre was the only one who could drive that pain away, and make her realize that pain doesn’t define who you are, overcoming it does. Same with Alexandre. I knew exactly who he was.
That in no way means, I don’t get thrown for loops. Just because you know a character, that in no way means you KNOW them. Like real people, though they assure me they are real, a character will grow through the course of you writing a book. They’ll evolve as the situations change them. We grow as we go through life from the experiences we endure and overcome. Some of that bleeds into the lives of our characters.
Rule 2: We write what we know!
You’ve probably heard that before, but it’s no less true. I know I’m writing about vampires, werewolves, and what have you, but the STORY is anchored in the real world. I could easily make this a historical, a science fiction or contemporary novel. Okay, maybe not easily, but it could be done. My characters are who they are because of who they are, not because they happen to suck blood to survive. You may begin reading because it’s a vampire romance, but you stay reading because the character becomes a friend to you. You care what happens to them. You root for them to survive the insanity the author — in this case, me — puts them through. If I’m good at what I do, you forget they’re vampires and see them only as Franki and Alex. Unless you really want them to be Vampire Franki and Vampire Alex, then it’s still cool. They multi-task like that.
We now have our main characters. Now, we can move onto story, plot, and… Uh, yes. Excuse me, but it appears someone from the peanut gallery needs a word.
Sorry, my split personality just informed me I forgot secondary characters, villains and assorted nastiness of that sort. In Bite the Neck that Loves You, most of the above mentioned has been set in place already. I shamelessly, ripped off family and friends to make them to, so you can use the pattern for Franki and Alex to figure them out. Bite Marks Two, will have some new characters introduced.
This brings up an interesting question. Why do authors introduce all these characters? Simple answer. We want to. Simple answer 2. To give us fodder to continue our dreams. The Love Bites/ Bite Marks/ and whatever part three is called story needs characters to drive the underlying plot that will eventually come to a satisfying end. Another reason is the real world is full of people with rich and varied backgrounds. What would a fictional world be like with the same sort of people living in it? Boring! That’s what. I’m not saying every character you see in my books will eventually get their own book, but with them around my world is deeper. It isn’t flat. It’s well rounded and hopefully fun.
Well, that ends part one of this Blog series. Please return next week as I — we — bring you the beauty that is plot. Sorry, about that WE but apparently split personalities now expect recognition for being there.
Til next week, Happy Reading!