It’s always a pleasure when an author agrees to visit The Book Diva’s Reads. Today I’m pleased to host a visit from K. J. Larsen, author of Bye, Bye Love, the latest in the Cat DeLuca Mystery series. Ms. Larsen will be discussing the lessons learns from characters.
Five Things Your Characters Can Teach You
We’re all familiar with the expression: You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. It’s something you say when your bat-shit crazy sister is on the local news again.
The coolest thing about being a writer is that you really can pick your family. You can pick their friends and a cat that doesn’t scratch furniture. You get to pick every character’s secrets and the closets they hide them in. And you can create a crazy switched-at-birth sister, but you have to pretend she’s not the real one everyone sees on TV. You might want to throw in a hunky guy or two because eye-candy is good for the soul. But whatever you do, pick your family wisely. Create people you want to spend time with. You’ll see a lot more of this family than the one the Universe dumped on you. And you know the Universe is still laughing.
Here are five things our characters taught us.
1) Characters need you to love them. If you love them well, your readers will love them too. They’ll cheer and laugh and grieve for your characters. They’ll send you emails encouraging you to write faster. And if you’re lucky, your characters will become their family too.
2) Be patient and allow your characters to come to life. Resist the conventional advice that tells writers to chart each character’s stats and history before beginning to pen the first page. Don’t bully your characters. Honor their voices. Everyone has a story and each character is the hero of their own. If you get out of their way, they’ll tell you theirs.
3) Let your characters surprise you. Spend time with them. Walk in their world. Note how they move and speak and smell. If they make you laugh, chances are they’ll make your readers laugh too. When we sisters wrote our first book, Liar, Liar, I got up each morning and had coffee with our protagonist, Cat DeLuca. Sometimes I had lunch with Cat’s crooked Uncle Joey or her interfering, Italian Mama. I spent as much time as I could with our characters. But I only took the two hunky guys to the shower with me.
4) You can’t always save your characters. When we sisters were plotting our third book, Some Like It Hot, we created Billy Bonham, a funny, quirky guy that I adored. We had big plans for the guy. He was to become a permanent player in the Cat DeLuca Mysteries. Billy was a goofy gumshoe and we set him up in a cheesy low rent office on Chicago’s south side.
When we sisters write, we divvy up the scenes between us. I offered to do the first scenes and Billy Bonham had me in stitches. He was working undercover, disguised as Santa Claus, and he was hilarious. And then, unexpectedly, a few pages later someone shot him. It just happened and I couldn’t save him. My sisters read what I’d written and agreed. We changed course. That’s how you honor a character’s voice. It was Billy’s story and I let him tell it.
5) Developing characters is an intuitive process. Know you have everything you need within you to create something fresh and uniquely yours. Connect with your creative source and write something amazing.
One day three sisters, linked by a voracious love of mysteries, set off to write their own. Hunched over a mojito and bucket of steamer clams, the Pants On Fire Detective Agency was born. Julianne, Kristen and Kari Larsen, (horse trainer, minister and irreverent baker) deliver a sizzling read and easy smile. Liar Liar is the first book in the Cat DeLuca mysteries. The sisters live in the Pacific Northwest and Chicago area and are currently at work on Cat’s next, most fabulous adventure.
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