When Dickens knew he needed a character and couldn't find one in his imagination, he would walk the streets of London looking at faces. All those 19th century pedestrians, shopkeepers, hawkers, and hansom drivers were auditioning for a role in one of Dickens' novels without knowing it.
I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work for me. I usually start a story because a title intrigues me. And the characters are often the last to show up. They are like rescuers, bailing me out because they can do things that I can't do without seeming like amateur puppeteers always showing the strings.
I'm eternally grateful to my characters. They’re like out-of-work actors who have gotten a part and become wildly enthusiastic. They show up for work whether or not I feel like working. And once they get the part, they are willing to appear, disappear, die, fall in love, cross-dress, get tattoos, even kill.
Some of my characters are people I’ve never met. Others I eventually recognize as collages of people I’ve known combined with my imagination and their role in the story.
But whether or not I can identify the composites, I somehow imagine all characters--past, present and future--living in a special country, a country always ready to appear in the right narrative.
But that's only my story about characters. And it’s obvious--from hearing about Dickens--that there are are so many other stories?
What's your story?
Do you start a with a character?
Do you have to look for them?
Do they appear out of thin air?
Causes Thaisa Frank Supports
Kiva Doctors without Borders Care2