Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Characters on the Blog Chain and a Thanks to my Editors!

Today you get a twofer because it is both my turn on the blog chain and Thankful Tuesday (a la Christine Fonseca) - First up....the thank yous :D Today we are thanking our wonderful editors, without whom our books would quite literally suck :D

I've had the pleasure to work with several editors, along with a team of other awesome people who are working hard to get my book all polished and shiny and ready for its debut in Jan. Adam Schwartz is the awesome acquisitions editor who signed my book - he is the one who started me off on this dream come true and I am more thankful than I can say that he decided to take a chance on a new author with a tiny platform and believed in my book enough to make an offer for it. Along with Adam, Michael Pye, the senior acquisitions editor at Career Press, has been a tremendous help and has fielded several newbie questions from me with patience and kindness, for which I am eternally grateful.

Then I had the pleasure of working with my developmental editor, Kiersten Dalley. She was absolutely amazing, had incredible ideas, and even came up with an idea for a new chapter that I just love. Saying Thank You seems so inadequate, but THANK YOU!!

Most recently, I've been working with my line editor, Diana Ghazzawi - she has really helped bring my book up from just okay to pretty dang snazzy :D Just an FYI, don't ever think you'll be able to get away with anything once your editor gets a hold of it - they call you on EVERYTHING and make sure you fix it :D She helped me make my examples more fun and interesting, had me add a much-needed new first chapter, and literally went through every line of my book to make sure everything was as it should be. And fielded a million questions from me in the process. She has been amazing to work with and I am so thankful for every minute of time she spent on my book. Thanks so much Diana!

And now for our blog chain question - this one was chosen by the awesome Abby who wants to know:

Where do your characters come from? And once they've been introduced to you, how do you get to know them?

For me, it sort of depends on the character. I have characters pop into my head all the time. Sometimes they have names, sometimes not. Sometimes I change their look a bit from what I see in my head (I just lopped a finger off a character....he needed something a little more amped up than a simple facial scar like he'd had :D ) and sometimes I write them like I see them and they stay that way. There is always some aspect of their personalities that changes - with my first MC, Min, I toned down her klutziness, amped up her intelligence, made her less trusting, more ambitious, and a little more feisty than when she first appeared. The basic character of Min stayed the same, but the specifics needed tweaking.

I get to know them by writing them. I don't do character sketches or interviews or collages, though I see the value in doing them. For me personally, doing something like that, at least right off the bat, feels forced. For the most part, I write what I see for the first draft and then, with subsequent drafts, I go back through and make sure my characters are who they need to be. The more layers I add, the more times I read the manuscript, the better I get to know them and the more "real" they become to me.

Just like with any "real life" relationship - the more time I spend with my characters, the better I know them.

How do you get to know your characters? Do you craft them one characteristic at a time, or do they show up fully formed and ready to go?

Be sure to check out the lovely Laura's answer from yesterday and swing by the spectacular Shaun's tomorrow to see who his characters make themselves known.


Christine Fonseca said...

I love BOTH of these posts! Being thankful is so important I think and I love hearing about your process. and the blog chain - well that is just awesome too!

Matthew Rush said...

Interesting to hear about your process. It's so cool to consider how things work differently for different writers, or even for different novels.

Christ is Write. said...

I like for them to come alive organically. And I completely agree - I feel as if crafting characters through interviews or character charts feel a bit forced. They don't come alive to me through these exercises, they come alive to me as I write.

ali said...

I am the exact same way with my characters. I've tried to do the character sketches and such, but like you, I just need to spend time with them, see how they react in situations and stuff. I've never thought of it in terms of an actual friendship ~ where a person's personality is revealed over time. Love that!

And what an amazing team you've had to work with. They sound fantastic!

Stephanie McGee said...

Ha, fancy that! I posted about characters today, too. And totally not by design to coincide with all the character posts out there in the blogosphere.

As for characters, I do minimal sketches beforehand, but the definition of minimal varies character to character and book to book. I definitely go more in-depth for my MCs than for the secondaries and tertiaries.

As for editors, I hope to have great reason for being thankful for them someday. I am grateful for good editors who do such great jobs at keeping stories and characters in line so that I can shut off my internal editor when reading and just enjoy.

The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting finding out about how you get going with your characters. :)

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I like your comment at the end about how relationships with characters, like any other relationship, changes over time. I've experienced that with my own characters too.

nomadshan said...

(I just lopped a finger off a character....he needed something a little more amped up than a simple facial scar like he'd had :D )

I just cut off my main character's right hand! Revision is brutal. I like to know my character's goals, motivations, and conflicts; most else I discover during scenes.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

A two-fer! Awesome! Yay for great editors! It's so wonderful you've been able to work with people who make you perform at your best. That's what it's all about, right?

And I loved your post about characters. I can't do full character sketches at the beginning, either, for the same reason. It needs to be organic or readers will be able to tell there's something off. But maybe that's just me being a crummy writer. :) I like your idea of taking several passes through the MS to make sure everything is right with characterization. I should do more of that, I think.

Eric said...

Just like with any "real life" relationship - the more time I spend with my characters, the better I know them.

So many on the chain have great lines like this one (each with their own special twist). This is a great way to see thing, Michelle. Thanks for allowing us to peek into your process. Nice job!

Michelle H. said...

Characters need to be like that, versatile. Otherwise, those body parts won't ever get lopped off! ;)

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I love that you took a character's finger away, because it was better than a simple facial scar - and I have to say it worked, because now I am all kinds of curious about this character with the missing finger!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I haven't done character sketches or interviews either. I get to know them through writing them.


Yay for editors!!! :D

Cole Gibsen said...

That's so awesome that you have such a great working relationship with your editor! I can't wait to start working with mine!