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Wow, people. I’m thrilled–and also humbled–by your response to Starlight on Willow Lake. The most frequently-asked question about this book is “How did you come up with a character like Faith?” (She’s the protagonist.)
It’s a good time for me to answer this question, because I’m meeting with a bunch of writers at a Seattle7Writers event on Bainbridge Island. Here is how to make a fictional character seem very real to the reader. Get her talking. Make sure she’s talking in her own voice, not your voice. If you want to write a lot of different characters, you don’t want them all to sound like you.
The key for me is to have her speak in first person–on paper. I’m quirky, as you know, so I write this out in longhand as a free-flowing conversation with my newly-invented character. If you’re a writer, give it a try. If you’re a reader, move on! Go read something wonderful! Then come back and tell us about it!
ANSWER IN THE CHARACTER’S VOICE:
My ordinary world looks like:
The first time the reader meets me, here’s what I’m doing:
My most relatable trait is:
The problem I’m facing right now is:
The thing in my head that’s holding me back is:
The thing in my world that holding me back is:
If I don’t figure out my problem, the consequences are:
Show the reader this image to suggest where the story is going:
My person history in three sentences:
At this moment, I look like:
In school, I was:
The people in my family origin are:
Here’s how I make a living:
Here’s the person I love most in the world:
My favorite thing is:
My least favorite thing is:
I’m aware that I have this personal problem or issue:
My friends and family would say I have this personal issue:
I would finally feel complete if:
The thing I need right now is:
My deepest desire is:
My biggest goal in life is:
I have an emotional wound that stems from:
My greatest regret is:
The way I defend myself is:
The single characteristic that could destroy me is:
The single characteristic that could save me is:
What I want the reader to know about me right this moment is:
The one thing that is going to get me going on my journey is:
I’m reluctant to change my path because:
My biggest fear is:
I express that fear by:
If I don’t go on this journey, here’s what will happen:
If I do go on this journey, here’s what will happen:
The greatest danger to me right now is:
My mentor is:
I do have a code of ethics. Here is its, in one sentence:
Something that bothers my conscience is:
Here’s what it would be required to make me take a leap of faith:
My worst enemy is:
My greatest ally is:
In order to achieve my goal, I would be willing to sacrifice this:
The difficult choice he must make as my journey comes to an end is:
My emotional breakthrough would be:
I’ll know I’ve completed my journey and mastered my problem when I _______________________________________________________________________.
Four years ago, I emerged from a difficult time in my life. During that time, I discovered how toxic negativity can be to a person. It affects you in ways you don’t realize, until you step back and discover the constant bad energy is taking a toll on your health, your psyche, your emotions–and your work.
I made a clear decision to invite only positive elements into my life. I called this project “The Year of Yes.” I made a firm commitment to reply “yes” to everything–no matter what the question might be.
I found myself saying yes to matters large and small. Yes to helping my elderly parents move to my town so I could look after them. Yes to rescuing a chihuahua puppy so Barkis could have a companion–and lookalike, bringing the now-legendary Lenny into my life. Yes to a multi-book contract with my publisher, including related yesses to audio books, foreign publishers and even a movie production company. Yes yes yes, it was all YES.
You won’t be surprised to learn that embracing the positive can be life changing. It opens you up to feelings and experiences you never dared to imagine.
Although I was happily single and determined to stay that way, I had to follow my own rule, and so I said a very small, tentative “yes” to a casual date. This led to more and bigger yesses, including an impulsive trip to Hong Kong where Jerry was working, a stay at the incomparable Peninsula Hotel, complete with Rolls Royces, a private spa and pink champagne.
Today is the 4-year anniversary of one of my most lunatic “yes” moments. I decided to have the word YES tattooed on my ankle. Happily for me, Jerry went along with the plan, and we both went to Ricky Tattoo in Wanchai, a district of Hong Kong. In the company of sailors young enough to be our kids, we submitted to the needle and thus sealed our fate.
A few months later, I said the biggest YES of my life when I found a marriage proposal in a message in a bottle on a secluded beach in Australia.
Saying yes has worked out well for me. Wishing you your very own YES!
Oh PS, please say YES to Starlight on Willow Lake. It’s just been published and I can’t wait for you to read it!