Monday Musings: The character’s in me….


A writing friend on one of my Facebook writing groups – shoutouts to Sue Palmer and all of my writing friends at Book Junkies – asked an interesting question yesterday.

“Do you ever imagine yourself as the hero/heroine in your books?”

A lengthy thread of comments promptly ensued as everyone weighed in on the discussion.  My response?

My characters tend to run around my head like a holodeck feature. I just join them periodically.

I would give up flavored coffee for a year – well, maybe I’d think about it – to have a holodeck in my office. Or my office in a holodeck.  The first time I saw one on the starship Enterprise (Star Trek) the idea of having one of my own took hold.  Sadly, I don’t have one. Whine.  Pout.  Happily, I’ve learned to build whole scenes in my head and move my characters around until I’m happy with the “program” I’ve created.

Once I have the story premise, the basic characters figured out, I set them free to move through the book their way. Oh, I’m a part of the characters – or maybe it’s that the characters are a part of me at this point – but there can be no doubt these are “real” people, separate from me. They’re as real to me as any of the friends I hang out with…which can be unbelievably scary when a serial killer runs amok in my head while I’m washing the dishes.

The truth is, as a writer, I can’t help but leak a little bit of myself into my characters. As hard as I try to keep myself at a distance, despite my need to ensure each character is a person in his or her own right, I do influence them by the some of the choices I make.  My experiences color those choices.  Just a smidge in my contemporary romances.  More than a smidge when I work on my suspense novels.  I do have a strong sense of justice that demands expression!

I never imagine myself as the heroine in my books.  In fact, for the longest time, I had a devil of a time writing female characters. I just couldn’t relate to them. One of my critique partners, back in my “Jurassic” writing period, once asked me why I always made my heroines such witches-with-a-B.  My snappy retort was that I wanted the hero, my heroine couldn’t have him.

Yeah, I had a lot to learn about writing.  That same critique partner also informed the newbie me there might be legal problems with the will I’d designed my story around.  I argued it was fiction. She argued fiction didn’t mean “made up.”  Imagine that!

That book didn’t survive.  Our friendship did.  And I learned a lot about characterization.  I learned to step out of the way so my characters could live. Yeah, I still love my heroes. My heroines have become close friends I care about, girlfriends I want to see achieve their goals and find love on the way.  I don’t know where my villains come from which can be a bit dicey to write because I often don’t know what horrible thing they’re going to do until it appears on the computer screen. But this is the way characterization’s meant to be…for me, at least.

I may have started writing two dimensional characters – maybe one dimensional with my heroines – but these people are larger-than-life in my stories now.  I know when my critique partners sigh over a love scene, when they laugh at something a character does or when they shudder while reading a death scene, that I’ve given my characters the breath of life they deserve.  A life separate from me, the writer.  Which makes it somewhat easier to let them go when their story is done.


Book Junkies is an open group on Facebook for both authors and readers. Check them out at They’re a great bunch to hang with!

4 thoughts on “Monday Musings: The character’s in me….”

    1. Thanks, Cynthia. I’ve had characters stop talking to me, too. So I guess it’s a good thing that I have a number of characters running around my head because I can go play with someone else. As you know, I’m a scene skipper so when something’s not working for me, I move on. Usually, sidetracking myself makes the cranky character jealous of my time with another and they come back. LOL

  1. Great post Karen, I liked learning about your journey from the beginning of your writing to where you are now.

    As for characters, I’m the opposite of you. I can write my heroines so easily because, being a woman, I understand how they are thinking, why they do or say something they do. I struggle more writing my hero’s and basically I think it’s because I doubt that I’m making them masculine enough. I want them to have feelings and depth, but come off strong and sure…and it’s a fine balance….at least for me 🙂

    Happy Writing!

    1. Hi, Christine. A long, arduous journey! 🙂 Honestly, it’s been wonderful. I’ve learned so much and am happy where I am now. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here but I’ve essentially changed genres 3 times. Started out in traditionals, then to short contemporary, and then to romantic suspense. Spent most of my careeer falling through the cracks of closing traditional and contemporary lines. I’m currently writing for me and that’s made all the difference.

      Anyhooo, I could write heroines. After all, I am a woman too and I do understand them. I just didn’t want to spare the time when I wanted to play with my heroes. Didn’t last long, not once my critique partners shook their fingers at me. I’ve long since learned to give my characters equal time. I still find men easier to write than women though. Even more interesting — weird? scary? terrifying? — is that my villains tend to drip off my fingertips without too much effort at all. Well, other than the breaks I have to take in the sunshine when I’m scared out of my wits by whatever they’re doing.

      My husband says I don’t think like most women. I prefer to believe that’s a good thing! 🙂

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