I am so happy to have started work on my next novel! As a writer, it’s such an exciting time as the characters and story begin to take shape in my imagination.
Not all writers work in the same way, of course, but for me character definition is a critical part of the writing process. As soon as the overall plot is clear in my mind I begin defining the detail of each of the individuals that the reader will meet along the way.
I already have a clear idea in my head of what each of them will look like, but I also like to find a photograph of somebody that is close in looks to my idea. That way I can refer back to it whenever I need a visual reminder. I search Google with a broad description and sometimes find an actor that fits the bill, or it might be a face in a hairdresser’s shot list.
I am not a fan of long descriptions of how individual characters look, but from time to time they may need to tuck a strand of red hair behind their ear, or their grey eyes might look particularly cold at some point in the story.
Even more important than how a character looks is the detail of their personality, and for that I like to understand something of their background – what has shaped them into being the person they are.
The categories in my character description might include habits/mannerisms as well as their internal and external conflicts. Those of you who have read some of my earlier books might recognise my description of Leo (Leonora) Harris. I developed a character who was tall and slender with long, very dark hair swept back from her face. She is aloof and wears black and white almost exclusively, choosing well-cut clothes that are figure hugging, or tight jeans. In my description of Leo I went on to list what she likes (vodka on the rocks, bright red lipstick) and dislikes (men in general, soppy music) with even more information about her goal in the story, her desires, her past traumas. I knew Leo so well before I started to write her into the novel.
I do believe that all books benefit from having clearly defined characters, and by the time I have written the first draft of the book I feel I can predict exactly what they would do and how they would behave in each set of circumstances.
As a writer, I feel it is my job to introduce characters to my readers in such a way that they might love them or hate them – but they must never be indifferent to them.