One of the questions a writer hears most often is, “Where do you get your ideas?”
The easy answer is: Where don’t I get my ideas? The news, an overheard conversation, an article in a magazine, a dream, a friend…or an enemy.
The harder question becomes how do I create the characters living in the world I build? Sometimes the answer is easy. For many of my books, the characters and plot come to me in a flash. I know so much about the people who inhabit my story. Birthdays, backstory, best friend. Other times, I’m working with a shoestring idea and my characters are barely a skeleton framework. I may not even have a name and I’m scouring the lists of baby names online to find one that stands out to me. I don’t even know why it catches my eye but later, it always ends up being the perfect name for the character and story.
My latest book is out of my romance comfort zone. Unspoken Rules is a suspense/thriller about a traumatized young girl in an abusive family. Because of the many layers, I needed to explore in this book, I relied on psychology to help build a foundation for my character’s actions and reactions.
If you haven’t checked it out already, Melinda Curtis’ Creating Unforgettable Characters is a fantastic resource for just that…creating multi-layered characters rife with conflict. Curtis explores seven parts of a psychological schema that combines a wound with a backstory to create a coping mechanism. This becomes the basis for your character’s actions and reactions. Add in the conflict keeping them from their primary goal and you have a well-rounded dimensional character to challenge your reader and keep them invested in your character’s growth from start to finish.
In her book, she explores 18 common schema types sure to help an author build anything from a romance to a thriller to a sci-fi dystopian. It’s a great tool if you need a little help rounding out a character arc.