when your characters become real

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I recently started a new novel and have been developing my main characters. What do they look like? Where are they at in their faith walk? What do each of them do in the face of adversity? What scares them? Invigorates them? Upsets them? What are their hobbies? What was their upbringing like?

Characters are the funnest thing to create as a writer. We spend a lot of time thinking about our characters and putting them in seemingly impossible situations. I love writing character-driven books, and as a very visual person, it helps tremendously for me to have pictures of the characters on hand. Although, the first time I had a picture of a guy taped to my computer monitor, my husband Lon asked, “Who is that guy?”

“Oh, that’s just Zach.”

“Zach? Do we know him?”

“Well, you may not, but I do. You see, he’s the main character in McKenzie, the first book in my Montana Skies Historical Romance Series. A figment of my imagination.”

Several years ago, Hailee, the third book in that series was published.

I remember when I first began creating the characters that made the series come to life. Particularly, busybody Lucille Granger, who makes her cameo appearance in all three books.

I sat perched on the staircase in our house, watching in anticipation for my husband Lon to come home from work. He was scarcely through the front door when I began tugging on his arm, “Lon!” I exclaimed.

“Is everything ok, Pen?” After all these years of marriage, he knows about my exuberant and creative personality.

“Yes, yes, it’s fine. I can’t wait for you to meet Lucille Granger!”

“What? Lucille Granger? Do we have company?”

I shook my head and laughed while leading Lon up the stairs and into the office. When he saw me pointing for him to sit in the blue “guest” chair in the office, he nodded his head knowingly. He’d been in the blue “guest” chair many times before. Yep, it was making sense to him now – Lucille Granger wasn’t someone visiting for dinner. She was one of the secondary characters I’d developed for my Montana Skies Series.

I read with excitement the chapter where I had created Lucille’s personality. She was nosy, presumptuous, and demanding, yet she had a good heart. I had waited all day to share my newest creation with the person I love most in this world, and now that time had come. Wasting no time, I flipped through the three pages of typewritten text, complete with voice changes to further bring to life Lucille’s character.

Being the sweetheart that he is and on a quest to earn “husband points”, Lon listened as I read.

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Ahhhh…the life of a writer. There’s nothing quite like creating new characters and watching the words flow on the page. There’s nothing quite like pressing the word count button and seeing the words increase at a nice rate. When you write, you come to know your characters as if they are family members, friends, or neighbors. I thank the Lord daily that He has given me the ability to do this job. I owe every word, every paragraph, every page, and every character to Him.

Portions of this post first appeared on Author Linda Yezak’s blog at https://lindayezak.com/2011/11/30/when-your-characters-become-real/

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