Creating characters

I guess every writer has their own way of creating a character. I tend most of the time to start with a name. With my stories being set predominately in the late 1950s/early 1960s New York and America I find there is a rich vein of names to mine into. Just by googling surnames or first names for America in a given decade or even a particular year leads me to either lists from government departments or baby-naming websites. Nancy Hecht, Mildred O’Connell, Dirk Allocca, Walter Ernlaid, and Ruby Dexheimer all featured in my last novella.

One of my favorite characters – delectable and dangerous Buffy Summers.

I have to admit I’m not the best at keeping records of what my characters look like. Although I have been using Scrivener for the last three years and I do use the facility to create ‘Character’ pages, I am lazy at updating them and seldom if ever fill in details such as ‘inner motives’ or ‘personality’. I expect my characters come across as very shallow because of this. I just about remember to keep records of their hair colour and what make of car they drive. I did have an awful time with the last book when I realised I had given the protagonist, Bobby Olsen, two different cars during a lengthy road journey. It wasn’t fun sorting out Chevies and Packards.

Another – the cunning Odysseus

Of course it’s interesting to think of books you’ve read where you get to the end and you realise that you’ve never been given a description of the main character by the writer or by the other characters in the story. Some writers go the other way and give a very detailed description early on. I think I prefer the former method. That is maybe why I don’t describe Bobby closely. You can all think of him how you like. I can remember when I was reading episodes out of the first novella involving Bobby at a Writers’ Group and finding out that some of the people there thought of Bobby as looking like me! I guess that’s easy to do when you’ve read out a story with ‘I’ telling the tale. Well, if I’m Bobby, I can’t wait to meet my Miss Rios…(you have to read the books to get that reference, or you can probably guess).

And Tom Hanson from 500 Hundred Days of Summer

Now, how about killing your characters off? Easy with the bad guys, unless you get a secret desire to use them again in a sequel. But the good guys, or the innocent ones, that’s hard. I can remember in the first Bobby Olsen story I had him teamed up for half the book with the above-mentioned Miss Rios. Toward the end she gets shot. That was a big dilemma. Kill her off and get a real shock value, or have her recover and possibly be a permanent sidekick for Bobby? I fear a movie director might finish her off, especially if they were not planning a sequel. Me? Well, read the story and find out.

And my greatest two from childhood – The Lone Ranger and Tonto



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