Unusual Bedroom

I'm sure there's an explanation for this...

Almost all of my stories start with a character. Even when I only have the vaguest idea of what the story is about, or where it takes place, some loudmouthed character starts telling me what’s up. “This is my story. This is what happens to me. You’re gonna tell it right now.”

Why do my characters always have an attitude?

Before I start a new story, I have a variety of character worksheets I like to fill out. It helps me nail down the particulars of my protagonist. This character is a person with a whole life from birth to present, and I’m only telling a small section of it. Knowing that person’s history, even if it never makes it into the story, helps turn a character into a real person.

When I’m actually writing a story, it’s a whole different experience, the way characters develop. They tend to crop up out of nowhere. Some character my protagonist meets in passing – a barista, a cop at a crime scene, a random coworker – ends up turning into an important supporting character. I never worry about developing them too much. They know their place in the story better than I do, since I didn’t expect them in the first place. I learn about them in how they interact with my protagonist (or antagonist), and they reveal their own backstory as I write them.

As far as the reader? They don’t get to know everything. They get to know what I tell them. What I let them see. I get to pick and choose what traits best portray my character. They do get a firsthand look into the character’s mind, and everything that is going on from the time the story starts til when it ends, but as the writer, I have to put that character in context without writing the character’s entire life story. I try not to get too bogged down in character details in the telling of their story.

The reader wants to know what happens next, not what the protagonist’s bedroom looks like.

Unless it is somehow significant to the plot. Or unless it’s an unusual bedroom which illustrates something important about the character’s personality.

Besides, I think I am obligated to uphold something like a doctor/patient confidentiality agreement. Author/character confidentiality. Some stuff my characters tell me in confidence.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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