Susan C. Daffron takes you through her method of character development.
In reviews of both my first and second novels, readers often comment on how much they love the characters I create. Jan, the main character in my second book, Fuzzy Logic, is not like any character I’ve read about in the past. She was a lot of fun to write because she is a librarian who loves doing research and has an astonishing ability to recall facts. Throughout the novel, Jan spouts off various factoids about pop culture and history much to the amazement of others. Some characters in the book find her memory remarkable; others just find it annoying (one person says she’s “trying to card catalog the world”).
Although that aspect of her personality was fun to write, partly because of all the research I got to do, I do try to create characters that have more going for them than just one unusual quirk. Because I write romantic comedy, it’s not as if I have to go into gigantic psychological detail, but I find that it does help to spend some up-front time getting to “know” my characters before I start writing a book.
Here’s an overview of my process for developing the main characters in my novels.
1. Figure out the basics, such as name, age, appearance, and employment. I often go to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) and look at pictures of movie stars. I pick someone who looks like how I envision that character and copy the photo into my writing program.
2. Decide on a Myers-Brigg personality type. The Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on research by Carl Jung, Katharine C. Briggs, and Isabel Briggs Myers. There are sixteen types and a Google search will tell you everything you need to know about how it works. It’s a handy way to see how people interact with others and the world around them. In Fuzzy Logic, Jan is a librarian, and not surprisingly, is a bit of an introvert. But based on the personality type I selected for her, she also is interested in security and having a peaceful life. That affects the decisions she makes in the novel.
3. Create a back story. Obviously, I’m not going to write the entire history of every single character, but it helps to know where the character grew up, whether the person attended college, how many siblings they have and other basic elements of the person’s life before the book starts.
I have all this information stored in my writing program, so I can refer back to it. This information becomes more valuable over time as I write more books in the series. I’m busily working on book number four, and I can tell you that I refer back to my character sheets for the earlier novels all the time!
Librarian Jan Carpenter likes things just so. Nestled in her tidy little cottage on the outskirts of the small hamlet of Alpine Grove, she enjoys her quiet life with her friendly, rotund black lab, Rosa.
Jan’s orderly life is turned upside down when she attends her mother’s latest wedding in San Diego. (Number six … or maybe seven, but who’s counting?) There, Jan encounters Michael Lawson, the obnoxious neighbor kid from twenty years ago. He’s still irritating, but not as annoying as his dog who has a habit of eating everything. The last thing Jan wants to do is risk heartache on a vacation fling with a smooth-talking serial dater, even if he is sinfully gorgeous and finds her unusual ability to remember obscure facts fascinating.
Amidst wardrobe destruction, canine digestive indiscretions, and episodes of extreme mortification, Jan’s desire to avoid drama may put the brakes on her fiery attraction to Michael. But maybe being cautious and responsible isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Susan C. Daffron is the author of one novel and 12 non-fiction books, including several about pets and animal rescue. She lives in a small town in northern Idaho and shares her life with her husband, two dogs and a cat – the last three all “rescues”. Her latest book, Chez Stinky (http://www.ChezStinky.com) is the first of a series of romantic comedy novels that will feature the small town of Alpine Grove. Susan is the president of Logical Expressions, Inc., a book and software publishing based company in Sandpoint, Idaho. She is also the president of the Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (spawn.org) and was also the founder of the National Association of Pet Rescue Professionals (NAPRP).