Today I am honored to present a guest post by Keira Michelle Telford, the author of a 10-book series of post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction novels, all centering on the lead character of Ella ‘Silver’ Cross. She shares some great advice on the art of creating memorable characters.
Inside My Cluttered Head
by Keira Michelle Telford
My head is filled with voices, all clamoring for attention. When one (or more) really take hold, that’s when a book starts to develop. For me, it doesn’t begin with an idea, or a plot, or a setting – it begins with a character.
Some characters are fleeting. I get a brief impression of some thoughts and feelings and that’s all, then they fade away. Others, like Ella ‘Silver’ Cross, show up one day and get stronger every time I think about them. The same way that Freddy Krueger feeds on fear, and gets more powerful the more you fear him, my characters gain strength every time they cross my mind.
Occasionally, a character becomes so real to me that I develop genuine affection for them. Most recently, I fell in love with a whore. (Actually, technically, she’s not a whore – she’s the madam of a whorehouse). See, the inside of my head is chock full of people. Some have already been brought to life on paper and just won’t leave me alone (they’re very boisterous), while others are standing in line, waiting for their turn. If I was born in a different age, I’d probably have been institutionalized. (Or medicated … or both).
Everything stems from the characters. Through their conversations with each other, I learn more and more about the worlds they inhabit, until a book finally starts to take shape around them. I don’t pick a setting deliberately – the characters tell me where they belong – and I tend not to plot anything out. The process of writing feels very organic to me, and I think it helps if you can just go with the flow and be flexible.
If you begin a book with very rigid ideas of how you want the plot to develop, you might end up with something that feels forced and unnatural. In my experience, the characters will always steer you in the right direction, which is why it’s important to get to know them inside and out before you start writing. After all, the more you know about your characters, the easier it is to spot moments in your writing where motivation, dialogue, or plot have gone askew.
Try writing biographies for your main characters – that can be a good way to get to know them better, as it forces you to answer questions about details of their lives you might not have thought about before. Where were they born? What’s their favorite food? Favorite color? Song? The more you ask, the more you’ll learn.
Ultimately, I probably know Silver better than I know myself at this point. I know everything about her life, from the day she was born, till the present – and that’s exactly as it should be. She’s become so close to my heart, sometimes I’m not even sure if it’s me who breathes life into her, or the other way around.
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – 18A
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