Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Day Your Character Was Born

a broken relationship
an article
a memory
a “what if” fear
a notice in the doctor’s office
a line I read in a book

What does each of the above represent? The beginning of my novels—the instigator behind the first moment my characters morphed into being inside my mind. As all writers know, ideas can geyser from anywhere. A road sign, a reminder from your dentist, a ladybug lifting to flight, the old couple slapping each other’s cheeks as they walk down the street (avoiding the cliché of holding hands here). Anywhere.

You’re here because you write. Have you ever given much thought to where the seed of your idea generated? Did the way the mailman lingered two seconds too long inspire your climactic crime scene? Was the story your friend recounted about the way she first met her husband so beautiful it leapt from a conversation to one of your romantic plots?

Much like the elated and terrified feeling you experience when you bring your swaddled newborn over your Welcome mat, characters also have their own homecoming.

I’ve been a little sentimental about births lately. All three of my girls have turned a year older this week. Can you say birthdays on the mind? People asked me what my goals were for this month (a natural question to ask on the heels of New Year resolutions). I answered with a quick birthdays and finish novel. I’m only 1K from the finish line of my novel and I have one birthday yet to whoop and holler for.

Have a little fun with this one and share how one of your characters was born…

photos from Flickr


Misha Gerrick said...

Hahaha I was reading Chronicles of Narnia when this very broody and angry guy walked into my head and refused to leave...

So I decided to write a book in stead.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I saw a commercial on TV and a premise for a speculative story came to mind. It's a great premise, but I have never written contemporary and am struggling with it! :)

Did you say 3 birthdays in a week? Wow. And congratulations on almost being finished with your novel! That is very exceiting!

Beth K. Vogt said...

I had to write an assignment for the Christian Writers Guild. Said assignment: Write a scene from three different perspectives. I started with a wedding scene and it went from there. Said scene is now complete and being shopped around at publishers!

Gia Cooper said...

Wondering what it would be like to be a an extra on the set of Gone With The Wind. ;)

Terrie Todd said...

"the old couple slapping each other’s cheeks.." Ha ha! Thanks for a good chuckle. I do believe a character may have been "conceived" on the dusty third floor of our 130-year old City Hall where I work, among the equally old and dusty records of births and deaths and land titles. Not born yet, though....still developing limbs and such...

Mary Vee Writer said...

Caralee was born at the Cody, Wyoming rodeo.
She will join Keisha, who was born at my junior high in the Detroit area and Nori, who was born during a family trip to NYC, 4th of July weekend, 2006
I'd like to join Gia on that Gone with the Wind set:)

Gia Cooper said...

Mary Vee...hopefully one day you will read it. ;)What a fun way to get up close to Clark Gable. *swoon*

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on starting the year being close to finishing a msc. Way to go.

I am sitting here stumped because I cannot think of how my characters were born. Now it's bugging me. It's usually the what if, situation that comes first and the characters naturally evolve from that situation.

Good post!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Reading a biography started the "what if" questions for me.

Great thoughts, my kids' birthdays are 4 days apart. Have a great birthday week!!

Pepper said...

Oh what fun!!!
Isn't it amazing how many ways these characters evolve?!?
Eisley popped into my head while I was washing dishes one day - she was walking through an airport adn I wondered why.
I found her hero while watching an interview with British actor, Richard Armitage. Boom! There he was, not exactly Richard, but the essence of the hero, Wes Harrison.

Two of my other main characters started from the 'what if' question after watching My Fair Lady.
And another one began from a story in my family's history.
My Middle School series started with a mirror. :-)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Misha, I love when books are behind it.

Sherrinda, I finished today. Woot woot. How cool a commercial inspired yours. And yes, well technically w/in 8 days. I'm beat and done making desserts for a while.

Beth, Very cool. I love how you refer to it as "said" scene. Maybe I'll enjoy reading "said" scene someday soon. That was some fun w/ the letter S. :D

Gia, What an image!

Terrie, Cool to think about a novel just developing limbs. That's where my next novel is. In gestation.

Mary, The rodeo. Well, yeehaw (or whatever is really said at one of those...clearly I do not know).

Gia, Can't say I've ever had a thing for Clark.

Tina, Thanks and hope it doesn't niggle at you too long it becomes a distraction.

Julia, Oh so you get the dessert crazy-making going on around here.

Pepper, You hit upon something key. Characters often meet me when I least expect it, when I'm doing something routine. Or should I say I meet them?

Thanks for telling me how some of your characters were born!

~ Wendy

Cindy R. Wilson said...

My story and character came from two different books I enjoyed about two years apart, and dreaming up what a fun and fictional town might be like when the characters are stuck between religion and superstition.

Casey said...

I don't have a character for this story yet, but driving around doing errands on Monday this is what I say:

A pink pony rocking horse sitting outside a church's daycare- outside the fence, in the snow. I wrote that one down, it just shouted "story!" to me.

Keli Gwyn said...

"As all writers know, ideas can geyser from anywhere." ~ Wendy Paine Miller

I love this, seriously love this, Wendy. Your creative use of language inspires me. I want some ideas to geyser for me.

My head and heart have been so full lately that I've had little room left for fledgling ideas to spring to life. Sounds like I need to take a walk, doesn't it, so the ideas, which have been burbling burst forth in full-bodied roar?

OK. Just had to add that my word verification was "gushme." If that isn't an answer to my question, I don't know what is. Wow!

Sarah Forgrave said...

The MC in my current wip was born in my previous one. When she squealed and attacked the heroine, I knew she had to have a story of her own.

Mary Curry said...

I don't remember where some of them came from, but this one I remember clearly. Every day on my way to work I walked past a house that had a for sale sign on it. One day the sign changed to sold and I started wondering about the person who had bought it. Then I started wondering why he'd come back to the town and who he might have left behind here.

Angie Dicken said...

So sorry I didn't stop by earlier, I was really sick these past couple of days. The moments my characters were born are very memorable to's as if I was meeting a good friend for the very first time. Good luck on finishing your wip! So exciting!!