Snowed in at the Character Development Inn

While in the Land of Exposition, I’ve spent most of my time wander about, chatting with the local Muses, and though it wasn’t my intention to stay for so long (as I do have several stories to write), it’s been a pleasant journey thus far.  I’ve seen other writers pass through, some just visit the tourist attractions, take photos and maybe buy a t-shirt or magnet while others take their time to look around and take copious notes about everything they see. The general atmosphere has been genial and laid back in the past few days, but then things changed as a fast-moving snowstorm consisting of plot bunnies. As the amount of plot bunnies and other random ideas started to pile up, obscuring many of the mains roads out of the Land of Exposition, I eventually sought shelter at the Character Development Inn, which is where I’ve been for the past few days. While there was every effort to clear the roads, the storm proved relentless as another storm blanketed the roads after the roads were nearly clear. Anyway, as I find myself stuck here (with ample foodstuffs and free internet access) I might as well focus on character development and relationships, since I’m not sure when I’ll be able to leave…

Or, in other words, I’m taking some (more) time to fully develop the main detective, the narrator (as I’m still determined to write in first person perspective) and the handful of recurring characters that are to appear in the first series of the three-part epic series saga. Up until now I’ve written general overviews of each of these characters – personality traits, appearance, and so forth – just enough to sketch out a brief summation of the narrative. As I delve more and more into crafting sequence of events and dropping clues (and perhaps a red herring or two) I’ve discovered that I do need to flesh out my main characters a bit more in order to decide upon if something in their past could (or should) have a bearing on the overall plot. As the genre I have chosen to set my novels is primarily mystery, these facts may (or may not) be important – hence the “burden” of the author of holding all the cards, but only showing his/her hand one  card at a  time.

So, in developing these characters, I need to start and the beginning which, in some cases, will start before the character is born – family history and relationships that occur throughout one’s life play a major part in the development of a character and shapes how he or she views the world and the events in which they find themselves. Of course in this investigation into a character’s psyche and attitudes, there are several possible avenues down which one can go – the trick is to figure out which one will serve best to create a well-rounded character that is (hopefully) not cliché or a stereotype. As mentioned in previous blogs relationships do matter  – whether it be familial, romantic or platonic, and could be the turning point or watershed element that determines a character’s motivations and outlook.

Thus far, my (private) detective is a middle-aged man, has two younger brothers and is a widower with a son in his late teens, early 20’s (haven’t quite figured out the exact age yet – as surprisingly, in all this character development and family tree building, there’s a good amount of math to do). The circumstances surrounding  the death of his wife are shrouded in mystery, meaning I haven’t yet decided between the half-dozen possibilities I’ve sketched out (any of which will have repercussions on my detective’s life and perspective on things).

Similarly thus far, my narrator is a young woman with a mysterious past and (possibly) questionable motives – I haven’t quite worked out all the details yet, though there are several possibilities I could use. Moreover, it is my intention to ensure that the narrator does not become a Mary Sue character (i.e. a character that is essentially masquerading as an idealized version of the author ) or cliché. To that end, I have determined that the detective and the narrator have a strictly platonic relationship, with no possibility of it changing to a romantic one, as there is a potential love interest for the detective later on in the series (though whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen).

Then there are the supporting, recurring characters – many of whom have a (very) general paragraph summation and little else. How frequent they appear and what impact they may have on the narrative is yet to be determined; some may end up as the catalyst for the mystery, while others may turn out to be vital to the investigation (or to a later mystery).

Another aspect of character development (at least the kind I am attempting) is that it is generational: the entire series saga – each series taking place in  a specific time period over the course of the past three centuries – is dependent upon the relationships within each family and between different families of which will recur throughout the series saga. Events that occur within the first series (and even those that happen before the start of the first series) will impact the shaping of the subsequent series and the events that occur within.

So there’s a lot to sort through, map out and decide upon; seeing that there’s a whole lot of snow outside (and plot bunnies inside), I have quite a monumental task ahead of me. I can deal with the internal quest to sort out my characters and decide how much angst to inflict on them – I can deal with shoveling all the snow outside in the morning (though I am hoping for warmer weather so that the bulk of it will just melt).

Onward and upward!

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