It’s a given: Writers argue about everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. Get a bunch of them together and the scrapping begins. Quickly the fiction writers bring up the topic of character development. When that happens I do my best to fade into the shadows and keep my mouth zipped. Because I write young adult fantasy adventures I’m eventually pulled into the mix.
“Hey, buddy, quit hiding in the shadows and come over here. You make up characters all the time. How do you do it?” That’s generally the way it starts. I bob-and-weave a lot and say little, don’t share with the competition you know, but I’ll let you in on my secret if you don’t tell anyone else. I have a conversation with them. Well, not me. I enlist the help of another character. I figure out a suitable location, the setting, what’s happening in and around the character of interest, and then listen to what’s said. This helps me gain insight into the character’s inner and outer workings, the fears, insecurities, unanswered questions, likes, dislikes, happy, not happy, etc. Here’s what I mean.
“You seem awfully quiet Miss Samantha,” Patch said as he trotted back with the stick he’d fetched. “Do you feel okay?” (Yes, in Sam’s world dogs can talk, and quite well thank you!)
Sam didn’t say anything at first and continued staring at the small rhythmic ripples as they crossed the smooth surface of the pond to the far side. When Patch plopped beside her she said, “Yes, but thanks for asking. I was just thinking about my friends in New York.”
The shadows cast by the tall pines told her it was getting late. Just a bit longer in the most peaceful place on earth, then she and Patch would follow the wooded path back to grandpa’s farm. She scooted on her rear to the pond’s edge and splashed the water with her bare toes one last time.
“Do you miss living New York City, Miss Samantha?” Patch asked. “I know that’s where you grew up.”
“Sometimes, but mostly I miss my friends, especially my soccer team mates, and all the fun things we did in the big city, like go to movies, play video games, and eat hot dogs after a game. For some reason the hot dogs always tasted better when we won. I can’t do any of that here. I’m so far away from the nearest town and it’s so tiny. There’s not much to do except see a movie, no kids my age -- it’s like a retirement place for old people.
“The friends I hung out with everyday have made other friends since I’ve been gone, and when I returned to help grandpa pack up my belongings to move to the farm, I realized I’ve changed and so have they. Grandpa says that’s part of growing up. Why adults say that I don’t know, but they do all the time.”
“How do you feel about the changes?” Patch asked.
“I’m not sure. Sometimes my feelings get hurt and I’m sad, then other times everything’s okay and I’m happy. Megan’s my best friend but except for a few text messages I don’t hear from her or anyone else for months. Megan has a lot of friends and she sees them all the time. Now they’re talking about new kids and about going places that I’ve never heard of. I really don’t fit there anymore. My parents are dead and I have to live with grandpa in North Carolina. I just don’t know where I belong, but it’s not in New York or the farm. I know there’s a special place for me and I will find it!”
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