As an author I get asked often, “How do you come up with your stories or your characters?”
The story is an easier question to answer. My ideas usually come from my dreams. I am an active dreamer and have very vivid dreams that are very much like watching a movie in my sleep. Full color, action-packed, people I don’t know, emotional conflict between me and those people I don’t know. Sometimes I have scenes that are so detailed and eventful that I wake up wishing the dream hadn’t ended. Those dreams are usually the kind of dreams that create a major scene in my book that often become the scene that sets the entire story.
In, Embrace the Dawning I had two separate dreams in one night that created the entire book. Yep, that’s right, one night. After waking up I fell back asleep and went right into dream two.
The first dream of that night created the scene where Kayci is brought to the rooftop by Adrian to learn and experience, The Dawning. In my dream I saw everything happen just as I wrote it. The vampires leapt off the roof, disappearing into the shadows of the tall buildings, leaving her standing there watching the sun rise. The second dream and second scene was when Adrian brought Kayci into the common room of the condominium for the first time, when she witnessed the activities of all those vampires. I could feel her shock and apprehension as she entered the room. I wanted to describe everything as it was seen and felt just like in the dream.
Those two scenes were the start of the book. I couldn’t stop thinking about those dreams and soon after the characters started talking inside my head. The itch to write those characters and those scenes were what inspired the first words of the manuscript.
Every author is called a plotter, pantser or hybrid. I am what is called a panster. I don’t know what is going to happen in my stories anymore than the reader does. How is that possible you might ask? I sit down with a couple scenes I know I want to happen in the book, but otherwise I just start writing and the character and story begin unfolding on their own. As I write, more scenes come into mind that I decide I would like to happen. I jot those ideas down at the bottom of the script or on a small notebook. Those scenes or events are not concrete though and often change. The characters’ personalities and choices often direct where the story is leading next. Often times the characters surprise me and do something opposite of what I had intended them to do. Ok, now you’re probably thinking, none of this makes sense. And you’re right, it usually doesn’t make sense to anyone who isn’t a writer. Just know, we as writer’s have movies going on inside our minds all the time and it’s our job as writer’s to be the scribes of those movies and do our best to put them into gripping descriptions to share with readers.
Now the characters. How do I come up with them? This is tougher to explain because I don’t even know where they all come from. But one thing I do know is that as a writer I observe people and study people. I observe facial expressions, body language, mannerisms, hair color, eye details, etc. I find people fascinating. What drives them to make the choices they do? Years of observing people, experiencing friendships, losing friends and loved ones, having my heart broken, loving with everything I have to give has given me three decades of experience in the actions and raw emotions of people. I take those experiences, observations and characteristics of people I’ve met or known and I use them in the characters I create.
Does that mean my characters are based off someone? No, my characters are not based off any real person. But I do nibble and take characteristics from different people and slip them into my characters to make my characters real, to give them real emotions and real personalities. Often times I can picture a character for the first time as if they just entered a room with me. That is how I begin describing them. I start with features first and then I begin revealing little details about their personalities. Are they shy, a spitfire, have an accent, emotionally aloof, emotionally expressive? Slowly the choices they make in situations start defining them as a character and a character you as the reader can relate to.