This world . . . this beautiful world of making up characters, painting a setting, needling supportive characters around your main ones, selecting a time space in which they must exist, is all a beautiful process.
This has got to be the most delicious, squealing-with-joy moment an author can face. All the laws of the land fall to the wayside as the consequences of the actions fall on the characters. Inhibitions that imprison you as a person are finally unlocked as you’re able to be free and let loose as an author. Readers willingly evaporate into a well-knitted, deliciousness world of anything goes, as they helplessly skate away from one full of judgment and constrictions.
We got the easel. That canvas stares back at us. White. Untouched. Unblemished. Virgin. An emotionless world waits, one without even a landscape, no breath, no air. And then we realize, we’re about to give a winning lottery ticket to one of the dormant characters in our heads. Finally! Their story is about to be told. But who gets chosen? Who must wait until it’s their time to shine?
Maybe authors are like casting directors in Hollywood. All ready to go with a script in hand but feeling robbed of anyone to breathe life into the words on the scroll. All the characters rest in the author’s head, vying to be chosen to tell their story, not just any one thrown at them. These characters have more power than readers know, and whoever the author feels the strongest vibe toward, wins the lottery and that character’s story wins the part!
Next, we decide, what does this character look like? Here’s the thing. It’s like the character shoots up to the forefront of our brains, leaving all the rejectees behind, fading them into the background, back into the holding place until another time for a story opportunity arises. When that character emerges, we see him or her. She whispers what she looks like without saying a word, we just close our eyes and scribble with words what the mind shows us. Sometimes we shake our head thinking, “Wow, I thought you would’ve been darker or lighter or had light brown eyes and not dark brown.” And so it goes.
Then we cast the supporting players and then the walk-ones. When the walk-on characters need to be called to action, they’re like the starving artists of Hollywood. Hey, buddy, you’re up. Come on and get that role that you’ve been hoping to land, but don’t be so quick to quit that job at your local Starbucks. Suddenly, characters who thought they’d never land a meager role at this point finally have a small break! For me, these characters are my bitches, and I decide what they look like. They’re lucky to even have a starring role at this point but nonetheless, I’m happy they’re on board because, let’s be honest: Everyone makes the book what it is, from the server in the restaurant in one of your chapters to the main character getting a featured photo op on your book cover. We authors disrespect no one in our novels, but we rejoice when we have some kind of control in this world you may believe we rule.
Now at this point, the author is salivating so much we need a bucket to catch the drool. We don’t know what’s gonna happen and we hardly care. We just feel blessed and overwhelmed to be able to tell the story and that the characters chose our headspace to trust us with their material. Like I said, son, it’s a two-way highway. We authors are slaves to these characters. They wake us up—if we’re lucky enough to sleep—they keep our minds hostage even when good TV or movie theatre films run, they knock on our doors for attention when others wanna talk to us. Can you see how crazy our brains can get? With so much racing and going on, it’s no wonder why some big-time authors splurge on that cabin in the woods or the cottage in the cut. These voices are relentless, so that’s why when they go quiet, we better be in the editing phase or something because for an author, something’s up! And for us, it’s not a good thing.
You see, these voices let’s us know that we’re still a creative connected to the craft. What’s a musician who doesn’t hum a random tune for a future song? I don’t know but it can’t be good. So, assuming all is good and that the voices are on and popping for us to get the story going, we name them!
This part is fun!!! Why? It’s a formal introduction to whom we’ve been dying to meet. How do these names come? Well, it’s a 50/50 kind of deal. The characters revealed what they look like, so we need a name to file the background that they’ll share with us. Some authors don’t get a name until the background is shared and the plot gets moving. In Capital Encounters, my main character’s name was originally Christine before I changed it to Summer. Authors decide the names for the most part, but if it doesn’t fit based on how the character acts after a while, we change it! Listen, again, I’m employing these people, the least they can do is let me name them. But for me, their personality and purpose declares their names over everything else, not my preference and theirs.
For example, I didn’t want anything common and overused. One of Summer’s friends in CE is, Emily. Emily is one of the four women in the trilogy. I wouldn’t choose this name, and it’s not about if I like it or not, but the name best fit her personality and purpose. She’s reserved, classy, a teacher, and sensible and just an overall good person.
Summer, the main character, is like a free bird, wanting to fly without perimeters, with long, wavy Amazonian hair. Summertime is when anything goes, plus the name is not overused.
Amber is my character from New York. She’s tough and from the streets but friendly. However, she sleeps around with married men. The name, Amber, to me, reminds me of a fearless woman who owns her sensuality. If a man cheats on his woman, Amber is that name that she finds in his pocket or cellphone. Heheheeee. Any Ambers reading this? Hi!!! Love you!
Finally, there’s Brooke. Brooke is a very classy woman, a perfectionist, a planner, success-driven. She’s the wedding planner! Brooke is a name that is also underused. It’s calm, pretty. A woman with this name strikes me as feminine and sexy.
So, after this, we write, surprised by our own twists but yet comforted by a blanket of clarity. My twists can also make me feel like, “Ohhhh, so that’s why or how . . .” Sometimes, this is where the author steps in, because a twist must be well-timed, useful, and at times, supportive of the details that readers take for granted. Because the characters don’t see the twists coming, that’s when we must break their hearts or boggle their minds and where we can own a little something of the power pie. That’s when we knock them off their high horses a bit. What? They can’t have everything their way. Are you kiddin’ me? Besides, it’ll only make them stronger. They only get stronger muscles by swimming against the current. Contra la corriente, baby! Readers love these moments, anyway.
Now this next moment could come before the book is written, while it’s being written, or when the book finally comes to a close. Also, it may even get changed countless times before going to publish. The title. Ooooooh, I love this part! This is what the readers will refer to when discussing your book! This is what backs up the image on the cover, the second grab of attention after readers spot your colors and cover image. The title, for me, is totally controlled by me. The characters have no say during this board meeting, but the plot is what wins the tug of war here. The plot gives a little and I give a little and by the end, I just end up with rope-burned hands even in victory. It’s common to have quite a few titles lined up, but an author may want the title because of the way it sounds versus what’s best for the plot. When I choose the title, I feel like it should be justified by the plot, even if the title is born of irony.
Again, every author is different and may disagree one hundred percent with me on everything written, and I can only offer my outlook here. However, usually, we authors find that what we thought was a weird and unique experience is actually something other fellow writers can relate to.
Lasty, what about declaring the book as a stand alone or the starter of a trilogy or series? Yes, author commonly go into a book project knowing it’s gonna be a trilogy or series. Other times, we just may not know. Remember, things aren’t always clear to us. We think it is, because again, we like to feel like the big sheriff in town at times, but if the characters are demanding that you give them more page time, by golly you give it to them! You can’t muzzle them anyway? They’ll only haunt you for here on out and besides, you’ll know the minute you hit the last page that these suckas got more to say. As the author, we’ll rejoice, because we, too, are just as anxious as the reader to know what will happen next!
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