>By: Linda Leigh Hargrove
I can’t remember a time that I didn’t make up characters. As a small child, I drew my characters in my margins of the family dictionary. When I got older, I graduated to drawing them on blank sheets of paper my father brought home from his job at the paper plant. I studied people, committing facial details and mannerisms to memory. Then later, in the seclusion of my room, I would draw all my impressions into one face. I was like a little squirrel, stealing bits and pieces from all over the place and storing them away in my makeshift sketchbook. Crafting stories to go along with my juvenile drawings was a natural progression.
When I create characters for my current novels, I still start with a picture. These days, I rarely draw the characters. Most of the time the picture is a clipping from a magazine or a printout from a website. It’s quicker that way. There’s just so much more that goes into a full-fledged character outline. Recording all their aspirations, goals, motivations, likes, and dislikes. Before long, my characters and I are talking scenes out (and arguing about plot points). For me, creating characters is half the crazy fun of writing. Although my stories are plot driven, it is the interdependence of the characters that makes the story come alive for me.
I sometimes base characters on real people. But never on just a single person. My characters are more like a tossed salad of a bunch of people that I’ve known or read about. Continue reading / Leave a comment…
While welcoming a friend into his special room, the mild-mannered Mr. Jarndyce, a character in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, says, “This, you must know, is the Growlery. When I am out of humour, I come and growl here.”
I should like to own a Growlery. Modern architects are very remiss, in my opinion, for not including such a room in every house. The world would be a lot more civilized if we all had a place of refuge in which to growl privately. Otherwise, we end up growling at innocent bystanders.
Take the example of the squire’s conversation with Mr. Gibson in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters: “… your wife and I didn’t hit it off the only time I ever saw her. I won’t say she was silly, but I think one of us was silly, and it wasn’t me.” This is what I would call a thoughtfully-sensitive growl, which essentially happens when people say something mean (though perhaps true) with a smile.
Some people manage to make you want to growl, not by their mistakes or failures, but by their strengths. Dickens depicts Mrs. Joe in Great Expectations as such a person, who “was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself.” I have been to a few homes whose mistress was a Mrs. Joe, and I found myself wanting to growl by the third hour of my visit. Continue reading / Leave a comment…