To give breath to your characters, you must flush them out, in other words, you have to get to know them – know them better than your own best friend, spouse, or child.
The way I do this is I first start a novel with a story idea. Some writers start with a character, some a title, some an outline. It may take me several months working this story idea out in my head until I have a basic story for the first draft along with a basic idea of character personality and what part they play in the novel.
Then I begin researching names for the characters that fit with the basic personality. In Broken Wing, I began with the name Bonnie. I knew she was special. When I started the first draft, I expected that she would be the main character. I also knew she had a gift for seeing into the future and thought she may be somewhat unstable. I knew Isaac was determined, strong, and powerful. I spend a few weeks or more researching names for meaning, history, root, etc. I use a white board to write down ideas of names, research, character connections to each other, etc.
After I have established the character’s names, I start the interview. I keep a file of an interview for each character. I start with the obvious – what is your full name? Where were you born? What is your favorite color, food, item of clothing, hobby, etc.? In Broken Wing, Ray told me in the interview that his favorite food was steak with blood dripping off the plate. He also told me he loved music but didn’t watch much television. Skye told me she didn’t own any plants because she killed every one she ever tried to grow, usually because she’d forget to water them. Bonnie told me one time she tore Skye’s doll’s head off because it was mocking her. Yes, it’s true, not everything makes it into the story.
After the initial interview, the fun begins as the questions become more personal and revealing. Do you like sex? How old were you when you experienced your first sexual encounter? Have you ever wanted to hurt someone? Have you ever tasted human blood? Who do you hate? And etc. The following occurred while interviewing Ray Long:
Me – Ray, how do you feel about Skye?
Ray – I’ve already answered that. Are you listening here or are you writing your damn daily grocery list?
Me – Do you confide in her?
Ray – I tell her what she needs to know.
Me – Like what?
Ray – I’m not going to tell you that.
Me – But you are, you must if I am to write the story.
The interviews for Broken Wing took six months. Some characters who were interviewed never made it into the novel. And much of the information from the interviews never made it into the novel. But writing the characters, knowing how they would react, what they would say and feel was clear and evident because of the time spent getting to know the characters before the writing began.
The Tarot predicts the journey as Ray Long comes to the town of Pettington hoping to leave his rage behind and begin a new life. And when he meets Skye Roosevelt, he begins to believe he can recreate himself and find his future in Pettington. But Pettington is no ordinary town with a metaphysical store that tells its future, a whore house that keeps it financially secure, and secrets long buried just beneath its surface. And soon Ray Long begins to spiral down into the pit of violence he has always known.
He begins to hear the Devil whisper in his ear, and he soon discovers his old self is more soothing to him than the new life he’s created. And when he tries to murder two of Pettington’s own, Skye Roosevelt must search deep within herself for her own self identity in order to protect her son as Ray Long battles the past in order to separate the passion from the pain. Broken Wing is a story about an abuser who was a victim of abuse as a child.
This is a story about his family relations, the need for love, the devastation of rejection, and the merry-go-round that keeps turning. And this story is about self-identity, a self-identity the character believes defines him, dark and rigid, until he is pushed to the extreme, only then can he step out and stand naked with this identity at his feet as he lays claim to the past that molded him and the passion that fills his heart.
Genre - Literary
Rating – PG-13
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