Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Listen to your Characters

Post by Kerrie

Last night I had the privilege of hearing three of my favorite local authors speak at Barnes and Noble. Each has a YA book nominated for a Colorado Book Award; Laura Resau, author of The Ruby Notebook, Todd Mitchell, author of The Secret to Lying and Amy Kathleen Ryan, author of Zen and Xander Undone.

They were there to talk about their writing, but we were also treated to stories about Laura's travels, Todd's crazy teenage years and Amy's ghostly roommate.

Since 90% of my writing is nonfiction and creative nonfiction, I am always fascinated with how fiction writers can crank out a whole novel. A lot of the conversation last night revolved around characters and how to be a good listener.

Todd shared that it took him five years to write Secret to Lying. He said his problem was he kept getting in his own way. It wasn't until he realized that he had to give up the story he wanted to tell and instead listen to the story his main character James wanted to tell. Once he was able to do that, Todd found that the novel came together.

Laura said that there is a small part of her in all her main characters, but they eventually evolve into their own form. She also believes in listening to your characters. She said she has conversations with them in order to better understand who they are and what makes them tick. This provides depth to her characters that the reader can relate to.

Amy unconsciously bases her characters on real people. She said that she finds if she tries to control her characters too much she gets bored. She wants her characters to lead her as she writes.

How about you? Do you listen to your characters?



John Paul McKinney said...

It was an informative and entertaining evening. Really worth the drive from Laramie, and then some. Thanks for keeping us posted

Heidi Windmiller said...

I really enjoyed the talk as well. I always try and listen to my characters. After all, it is their story--not mine.

Laura Resau said...

Thanks for coming, John Paul, Heidi, and Kerrie (and others)! (And wow-- thanks for driving down from Laramie, John Paul! It was great talking with you.) I'm so grateful for this warm and supportive community of writers we have... (and thank YOU, Kerrie, for fostering this!)

Kerrie said...

It was nice seeing you there last night Heidi and John Paul.
Laura, it's my pleasure. :-)

Anonymous said...

Yes -- I second Laura's emotion. It was great seeing you there, Kerrie (and John, and Heidi). And thanks for posting on the event. See you in August!

Dean K Miller said...

Sorry I missed it, and meeting JP and Heidi and hearing the authors. I was meeting with Carolyn Miller about writerly stuff. We talked about my stuck-ness with two characters who needed to meet, or avoid each other.

Her suggestion was to let them decide. Later, while I was relaxing in the hot tub, I simply asked them to show me what was going on. Within minutes I had my answer and I'm now unstuck.

I admit bits of myself are in several of my characters. I borrow and mix/mash from others as well. There's plenty of "fact" in most of my fiction.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I hated to miss this event too, but my critique group met Tuesday night and I needed their input on my novel's last chapter.

We do have to listen to our characters. I have a bad guy in my suspense novel who apparently decided he'd had enough of the trauma I was putting him through so he unexpectedly dropped dead. I decided he made the right choice.

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