First off, I should say, I don’t. Write them, that is. And I don’t believe that’s how it all works anyway. At least not for me.
They simply are.
It might be that I’ve seen a portrait and have stood before it and wondered what that individual was like, wondered what they knew, what they saw…and as I’ve thought about that over time, that character’s individuality takes shape or reveals itself in my mind.
Or sometimes, it’s a name. And I’ll read that name somewhere, and the name suggests so much, and I’ll get such an image, and the character forms from that.
Or sometimes, as in the case of Boy Tirrell, he just always was. I remember first encountering him as I listened to an old Scots’ fiddle tune, known only as John D. MacDonald’s. And I recall listening to it, and just behind the lenses of my eyes, seeing this boy, running, running, running across France…and across Europe. Not stopping for anything. And soon after that, I found myself writing the opening chapter of Of Honest Fame. And there he was.
As I’ve worked on the book, I’ve got to know him better. Which isn’t surprising as he lives with me, in one way. Or I live with him…not completely sure which it is.
I don’t make decisions for him, or for any of the characters in this book. It all just happens. They all are who they are and don’t seem particularly interested in cutting me any slack. I learn about them as I go along; I know what I need to know about them when I need to know it, and not before.
But the key is always being quiet enough to listen, being quiet enough to hear them speak. To close myself enough that I can see through their eyes, see what they see…and if I’m very quiet, if I will allow it, to feel as and what they feel, to know as they know and are known.