Out of curiosity, this was a question I put up at Romance Divas, and of course, I received the variety of answers I expected. Almost everything from "My stories have characters?" to "I know those folks inside and out."
I had been wondering because, as I've blogged before, I've been reading Karen S. Wiesner's First Draft in 30 Days. The first thing she has you do is a character chart. Hers isn't as intense as some I've seen--I have a copy of one somewhere that's 20-30 pages--but, as I said, it got me wondering.
When I start a story, I'd have to say I have varying degrees of knowledge about my characters, depending on the story. With IH, I dreamed the story, which means I knew the whole story. But did I know Chris or Teresa's religion or favorite color? Nope. I still don't, because that information really wasn't pertinent to the story.
But there are people who know everything there is to know about their characters before the first line of the story is written. They know favorite colors, favorite foods, religion, minute details about childhood . . . everything. And that works for them.
But not me.
I tried one of those extensive character sheets once, and the phrase "Who cares?" passed my lips more frequently than the answers to any questions. I tried a character interview with Jackson and Rebecca in SR (this was for a workshop), to no avail. Rebecca started wondering if she'd dusted the picture frames in the upstairs hallway, and Jackson crossed his arms, rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, and began whistling.
It would seem I just don't work that way.
My characters tend to unfold, reveal themselves to me during the writing process. I discover things about them as I move along. In IH, Teresa started out to be very much like me. Almost a carbon copy. "They" say you should write what you know, so it was easy in the beginning to write her actions and reactions according to how I might act or react to any given situation. But she didn't stay that way.
Eventually, Teresa became her own person, her thoughts and actions very different from my own. Even though all my female characters are some part of me in their base form, they're no longer me. Yes, I can be snarky and sarcastic, but nowhere near Dakota or Braelyn. I have self-esteem and self-worth issues, but I ain't got nothing on Teresa, Rebecca, or Aine. And Keelin? I don't know enough about her yet to know what parts of her are me--except I do share her fondness for dark hair on a man.
I find it very interesting that as authors, many of us share common goals, yet as with most other things, our journeys toward those goals couldn't be more different.
PROGRESS: Got three hours in yesterday toward my 20 hour BIAW goal this week.