When I am developing characters sometimes certain people pop into my head. I am reminded of people I know or know of - friends, acquaintances, family, clients, total strangers I have had encounters with, celebrities and yes, my own life. I might even look at horoscopes of people, or personality types, things like that, till I get a feel for the character – what their mannerisms might be, how they respond in certain situations, what their physical attributions are, flaws, morals, values, quirks – all those things. As I write, I ask myself often, “would this character really say that? Or act like that, and if they did, it would have to be because he/she believed this … How can I show that?
In For Love and Mercy, Stormy comes off in the beginning as shallow and angry. I needed to show how her life struggles led her to lose faith in herself. I asked myself what experiences led her to do what she did? I knew I wanted her to have a spiritual transformative experience, like I had in my twenties but then what made her so angry? Certainly not that? Hmm, but maybe it did, but in a convoluted way.
Other characters, like Valentino, in For Love and Mercy, I didn’t really have an actual person in my head to start off with – although in real life I did briefly meet an opera singer on a train in Greece and hung with him for a few days, but Valentino is nothing like the man I met so many years ago! Valentino’s character really evolved magically. His name was Robert when I first started writing but as I wrote, Robert just didn’t seem to fit. Once I changed his name to Valentino, he instantly became a real person and his character took on a life of its own.
It’s when my characters become very real people to me – when I spend my time wondering what they are thinking, when I begin to dream about them, then I know I have a good strong character. By the time I am finished my novel and it is published and I am still thinking about them as real people, I know for certain I got it right!