BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why'd You Write That?

People sometimes ask me how I decide what to write or they ask why I haven't written a particular story. The answer is the same for both--I write the characters that are talking the loudest.

To use an example to illustrate, I was writing In Twilight's Shadow in 2007 when I saw a picture online and boom! Chaya showed up. It really does happen that fast and anything can cause a character to appear. Sometimes nothing happens and they still arrive. It's the way it is. So Chaya showed up in 2007 and pulled at my attention, but I was on deadline and she had to wait.

Over the next two years, other characters talked louder. First Shona Blackwood from Edge of Dawn and then Kel Andrews from In the Darkest Night. I wrote their stories instead, but Chaya and her hero never left. Because of this, I knew I'd be writing them at some point, but I didn't know when.

Then, after I finished Darkest Night, it was Chaya who was talking the loudest and I knew the time had finally come. Of course, over the two years, things morphed. Instead of being a stand-alone book, the hero's two friends decided they had stories, too, and it became a trilogy with an arc over all three books. I also kept getting brief flashes of this hero and heroine and learning more about them.

That's one of my favorite things--getting details from my h/h on who they are. When a set of characters pushes through the pack and grabs my attention (and if I'm not in the middle of another story), I go into a stage I call Pre Book. Pre Book is awesome. :-) At this point, my characters are pouring out information. It might not be about themselves, but it all helps somehow. Pre Book is also when I find pictures of my h/h, maybe their homes, maybe their cars, maybe other things. During Pre Book what I look for depends on how important said item is to the character. For Chaya, I had to find her car before I started the book, but I didn't need to look for her home until after I'd started writing.

BTW, Pre Book can last anywhere from a week to a couple of months. It all depends. But from this point on, my characters are in my head constantly. That's not an exaggeration, either. My h/h will be talking to me, showing me scenes, offering opinions every day and not just when I'm writing. Driving, showering, working at the Evil Day Job, anywhere, any time is fair game for them to come in and talk to me. Probably 10-20% of what I know about them makes it into a book. There's just too much I'm told that is interesting to me and helps explain who the character is, but isn't necessary for the story.

As an example, Chaya's hero has two brothers. They might be mentioned in the book, but at this point, I'd be shocked if any of the details I know about them make it into the story. It doesn't matter that I know a lot about his middle brother; unless it's important to the book, it won't go in. On the other hand, what happened to him while he was in the Middle East impacts him in a big way and that will play a role in the book.

After Pre Book, I start writing. This is more months with the characters, and if it's a book I'm doing a proposal for, I write 3 chapters, wait till it sells, and then write the rest of the story. In those intervening months, the characters are still there and still sharing details, although if I'm working on something else, the new characters will be louder.

By the time I go through revisions and edits and the characters finally depart, I might have had them in my head for a year or more. For Chaya, I'll have her and her hero in my head a minimum of three years.

I'm not complaining. I think it's so cool to have people telling me stories, especially when I'm bored. I love spending time with my characters and I love getting to know them so well. For me, this is the biggest perk of being a writer.