Building Character: Writing what you Know, Researching and Having Fun

The editors of my romance writers’ chapter newsletter gave us a writing prompt to consider in drafting essays for the November issue of the newsletter.

How do we build our characters and their fun habits? Inspiration can come easily to me, so I don’t think it’s too complicated.

Our characters’ basic personalities, where do they come from? At the most basic, we can write from what we know, and it’s fairly easy to do. We know ourselves. What are we like? What is our history? Do we want to create an alter ego and put her into our novels?

The people we are closest to, we know them fairly well, their personalities and histories. How can they inspire us in character building? Should we create alter egos for them as well? In addition, I think about other people I have known. What makes them fun or interesting? If I know them and their experience well enough, the writing flows easily.

I find that the more complicated aspects of character building require more research. If I’m not writing about something I’m familiar with, I have to learn more, not only to understand, but to make the character authentic. But of course, it must be something that really interests and motivates me to want to learn more and write from this new knowledge.

So where am I now? In my latest work in progress, I’m drawing upon my training in ministry, things I actually experienced and things I know about because I’m steeped in this world. It’s where I have a good number of connections nowadays. What might a young seminarian be doing in her day to day life that makes her life interesting or complicated? What might her coursework look like? What might be her challenges in dating? The things I have learned over the three years I was in formation and all that I knew even before I began the process, provides the foundation for understanding my heroine’s character and habits.

But it gets even better. This past weekend I attended a conference for clergy and lay people. This is a conference I have been attending for at least nine years. Included among them were people I knew in my ordination cohort and those behind me in the process. I spoke to two of them during the course of the weekend, but I must admit I wasn’t surprised at what I heard. I have known them for about four years. Nonetheless, this is what I tweeted when I returned: folks, this is a romance novel.

The details are too juicy to divulge, but I did reflect for a bit. So yes, my two young friends are finding their way. I wish them well. Their story certainly inspires me to write!

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.