from-the-mailbagRecently, I received an email from a reader, Wen, who said in part:

I hate myself in pictures, specially where I have to pose but be natural WTH!!! But I have learned that selfies are more benevolent with me 🙂 Video? No way Jose!!!

About questions… I was the student who almost never asked questions and I am curious just probably not that much but I do wonder how you picture the characters in your mind and translate them into paper? Have you had characters that picture perfectly in your head but in paper they are just blah? Have you ever written a book where in the middle of it all, you decide you hate it and throw it to the bin or did you have the patience to redo it?

This was in response to my live videos on Facebook.

I am a classic introvert, one of the rarest kinds among women, an INTJ — for the Briggs-Meyers fans among you.  I hate having my photograph taken and found the live video thing on Facebook uncomfortable…until I started talking about my books and my characters.  Then I forgot that people would actually be watching me and shared my enthusiasm for stories, instead.

Wen asked some very specific questions about my characters that I’m only to happy to answer.

How do you picture characters in your mind and translate them to paper?

I’m a visually oriented writer.   I “see” stories in my head, and race to write the scene down before it gets away on me.  So I see all the characters in my head, too.  Walking, talking and…doing other things.

(It’s a very interesting world, in my head!)

As my writing process is simply getting the story in my head down on paper, the characters emerge in text the same way.  I’m just spilling out the story as perfectly as I can, as fast as my fingers go.

Have you had characters that on paper are blah?  Have you ever thrown a book away, or re-written it?

I’ve combined the last two questions, because the answer is the same for each.

Yes, I’ve had characters who would not “jell” in my mind and I’ve had stories that don’t look anything like what I envisaged in my mind, once I got them down on paper.

I have never thrown a story away yet, although I have shelved some stories to give them time to mature in the far recesses of my mind.  The subconscious is a marvelous writer, as long as I get out of its way and let it mull things over.

I’ve also had stories skew and characters stubbornly refuse to cooperate, but couldn’t put the story aside because readers were waiting for it, or editors were.  While I might have told an editor to wait, I don’t like letting down readers.  So for those stories, the cure is very interesting…getting to know the characters better.  I have sat down and “interviewed” characters.

This is a woo-woo process that really is magic.  I ask my character deep and profound questions, then I write out the character’s answer underneath.  I pick out details from their answer and follow them up.  Sometimes the conversation has nothing to do with the events in the book.  Sometimes, they’re seething about what has happened in the book.  Always, though, I have after a page or two (rarely more than that), sat bolt upright in my chair, klaxons sounding, the globe over my head flashing wildly….for I’ve been handed the keys to the rest of the story, just through getting to know the character better.

Then it’s a matter of going back to the story and getting it all down on paper as accurately as the story in my head looks.

It’s a tough ol’ life…

Cheers,

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