Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Reader Question--How Do You Choose a Character?

 by Patricia Bradley


I was talking to a reader recently (my daughter) and I asked if there were any questions she's ever wanted to ask me--related to my writing. Notice how narrow I made that question. 

She'd just finished Obsession and was curious about how I came up with my characters, particularly Sam and Emma. (She couldn't ask an easy question!) I stammered something but knew I had to do better, so here we go...

On rare occasions, a character will come to me full-blown. One such was in my very first published book, Shadows of the Past. I was sitting on my sofa; it was my quiet time and I was reading the devotion for the day when a dark-haired woman in her late twenties popped in my head. She whispered, "Someone is trying to kill me." And then she was gone.

Of course, I had to know why someone was trying to kill her, and that's where that character and that book came from. It wasn't that way with Emma and Sam, although the photo on the cover is exactly how I pictured Emma.

I had pitched a four-book series to my publisher and Obsession was the second book. I knew that a body would be found at Mount Locust, and that's all I knew. 

As I let the story noodle around in my head, a story began to form, usually because I kept asking, what if... What if Emma's brother had gone missing ten years earlier on the night a girl was murdered?  I already knew her name because she was in Standoff and I knew a little bit about her personality. 

What I didn't know was how stubborn she could be. And the reason is...she didn't tell me that when I was writing Standoff. She waited until I was in the middle of Obsession! 

Seriously, I can write charts about my characters, know what their wounds are and the lies they believe about themselves--the lies that keep them from living their dream life. But they don't reveal themselves to me until I start writing their story. I wish they did--it'd be a lot easier.

Sam was the same way. I knew he was hurt because Emma broke it off with him, but I didn't know how bad his relationship was with his dad until he told me about a third of the way through the story. I love those moments!

So, if you've ever wondered how a writer comes up with their characters, that's the way I do it. I can't begin a story until I know my hero, heroine, and villain's names. They simply won't develop.

Leave a comment with a question you've always wanted a writer to answer and I'll enter you in a drawing for Obsession! Be sure to leave your contact information.

Oh, and the Standoff e-book is on sale this week for $1.99! Check it out here! for the Kindle version. For all other sites, you can find the links on my webpage.



The Natchez Trace National Parkway stretches 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, the oldest town on the Mississippi River. It's the perfect road for a relaxed pleasure drive. Unfortunately for park ranger Luke Fereday, lately it's being used to move drugs. Sent to Natchez to infiltrate the organization at the center of the drug ring, Luke arrives too late to a stakeout and discovers the body of his friend, park ranger John Danvers.

John's daughter Brooke is determined to investigate her father's murder, but things are more complicated than they first appear, and Brooke soon finds herself the target of a killer who will do anything to silence her. Luke will have his hands full keeping her safe. But who's going to keep him safe when he realizes he's falling--hard--for the daughter of the man he failed to save?

21 comments:

  1. How important to you is it to research for your books? Also, how extensive is your research? I know some say that it's fiction meaning things don't have to be acturate to details. However for me, I feel that it's quite evident when an author has done their research and it makes the book more believable to me.

    Second question is do you know from the beginning of page one who is doing what and when as if an outline is in place or do stories change as your writing them because characters take you on different path. Plus if it's part of a series, do you know before you start who each book with revolve around or as you write does the importance of telling someone's story dictate who the next book is centered around.

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win a copy of "Obsession"! Most definitely on my TBR list and can't wait for the opportunity to read it. Fabulous cover that says READ ME! Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kay, I'll answer both questions briefly as I'll probably write a blog post using them later. lol. I do extensive research--even in fiction I believe it's important to be as accurate as you can be.

      To the second question, I can't outline. Wish I could. More on that later...

      Delete
  2. Your daughter sure picked a great question! How long have you been writing? Do you research before or during the writing of a book? Once you know what the book is going to be about, how long does it take to usually write it?
    duellonlysis@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been writing half my life. lol. I do research before and during the writing. And it usually takes me 3 months once I know what the story is about...and then that usually changes. lol

      Delete
  3. What an interesting article about how you select/develop your book characters! Do you use settings that you are familiar with, & have visited, or settings that you've only read about? THANKS for an opportunity to win! badawson16 at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barb, until the Natchez Trace books, I set my stories around where I either live or grew up. For my last series, I visited Natchez 4 times and would have returned a 5th time except for Covid. I will be visiting the Pearl River Basin soon for the next series.

      Delete
  4. I enjoyed reading this explanation. How do you balance writing with everyday life and chores? Blessings

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very carefully, Lucy! I write full time. Sometimes life gets in the way and I get behind. Like now. I have a deadline July 1 and still have a minimum of 30,000 words to write on the story...

      Delete
  5. Have you ever changed a character's name while writing?

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed I have. My very first book I had to change Taylor's name. I had chosen the name of a fairly famous actress without realizing it. :-) The book I'm working on--I've changed the name of two secondary characters because as I wrote, the names simply didn't fit the character.

      Delete
  6. How do you figure out how to both create and then solve a mystery in the story?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, I have a very devious mind, Amy. lol And I get practice on my website where I create crimes for my Mystery Questions. www.ptbradley.com/blog

      Delete
  7. Do you travel a lot and write when you travel or do you always write from your own home? Thanks for the chance to win this book!
    faithdcreech at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Faith, I find it very hard to write when I'm away from home. It also depends on where I am and if there are people around--I can't write if anyone is around.

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. How did you connect with your agent? Thank you for the chance to wina copy of Obsession.

    psalm103and138atgmaildotcom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny you should ask, Caryl. I met Mary Sue Seymour way back in 1998 at one of the first writer's conferences I attended. She asked for my manuscript...which I had not written. It would be 14 years before I got around to sending her the manuscript. lol. Partly because I started working for the Abstinence program and co-wrote a curriculum and a workbook. Finally in 2008 I started writing fiction again but it would be another four years before I mailed Mary Sue the story. She picked me up as a client, but unfortunately passed away about four years ago. By that time, my current agent had come on board and took me on.
      Writers' conferences are really good ways to connect with agents and editors.

      Delete
  10. My question is do you write characteristics of yourself in your characters? sheliarha64(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Is there a setting that you really want to write about?
    paulamarys49ATgmailDOTcom

    ReplyDelete
  12. My question is Do you get your ideals where the book takes place from somewhere you have visited? Thank you for the chance for this amazing giveaway! Sarahbaby601973(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete