ADMIN: Please join us in welcoming guest blogger Barbara Colley of the popular Charlotte LaRue mystery series! Barbara’s willing to answer questions and chat with MSW friends, so don’t be shy. Ask away…. and welcome, Barbara!
What a Character!
First, I should thank the wonderful authors of Murder She Writes for inviting me to be their guest. Thanks, ladies!
And second—you do know that if you say first, there has to be a second–anyway, just so you know, I have never blogged before. I’ve been just a wee bit afraid to. Okay, make that a lot afraid to. You see, I have a tendency to say things I shouldn’t at times, especially if I’m sitting at a keyboard, so I figured that blogging was just one more way to get myself into trouble. Of course I was told that I could “talk” about anything that I wanted to, but it was suggested that something about writing would be appropriate.
So, how about I talk about creating characters? That should be safe enough and keep me out of trouble. Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot about characters lately. Starting in two weeks I’ll be teaching a series of three writing classes for the Community Education program where I live, and I’ve been trying to decide what I want to include in those three short classes. After all, I’ve been in this business for at least twenty years and have had several books published, so there’s a whole bunch of information that I could share.
The title for my course is “A Novel Idea.” How’s that for being original? And no, I’m not usually sarcastic, just a wee bit aggravated that I couldn’t come up with something more, ah . . . creative. Anyway, that’s beside the point. The real problem is that I’ve got more information to share than I’ll have time to present, but I digress . . . again. For the first six books I wrote that were published, I knew that characters were important, but it wasn’t until I began writing my mystery series that I realized just how important they were. Suddenly, it hit me that my whole series hinged on that very first book and the first introduction to my sleuth. If readers liked her, then they would want to read more about her. But if they didn’t like her, then my series was doomed. Just think about the books you’ve really enjoyed. I’d be willing to bet that you probably don’t remember every detail of the plot, but you remember the characters. Think, Scarlett O’hara, and what about Clarice and Dr. Lecter, or how about Harry Potter? See what I mean? All are truly memorable characters.
Talk about putting pressure on myself! I put so much pressure on myself that I spent more time getting to know Charlotte LaRue than I’d ever spent on any other character that I’d created, and that was before I even gave Charlotte a story. And yes, I did that chart thingie where you fill in the hair color, color of eyes, body type, etc., etc. But I guess what I wanted to share with you (and what I’ll share with the class that I’ll be teaching) is the one thing that I did that was most helpful when creating Charlotte. I simply let her talk to me and tell me “her” story. Once I let her talk, I couldn’t shut her up, and I learned all kinds of stuff about her that no one has ever put on a chart.
Now I know that might sound a little strange, but unless you’ve tried it, don’t knock it. And just to be crystal clear, I do think that character charts are helpful, essential tools for a writer to use. But once you’ve filled in all of the blanks, then sit back, close you eyes, and let your character talk to you through the keyboard. And no, I’m not into channeling or any of that kind of hocus-pocus non-sense. What I am into is giving my creative self permission to be . . . creative. Does any of that make sense? I sure hope so, but if it doesn’t, then do whatever works for you, and thanks for taking the time to read my first attempt at blogging.