Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!


Choosing Characters

carwash I love plotting. And I can see a murder scene almost anywhere I go. I know, gruesome! My Precious Redhead and I make a game of it. Should have heard our conversation as we waited in a fast food line next to a car wash. After sunset, the flashing blue lights inside the glassed-in building looked more like a house of horror than a car wash.

But I digress.

My biggest challenge, and my critique partners will back me up on this, is developing deep characters. But I’ve heard some excellent advice on this.

First, from Susan May Warren, I learned to ask my characters what their greatest fear is. Actually, it never occurred to me to actually ask them until I read Shame and Redemption by Bethany Quinn (a character created by Katie Ganshert).

But I have to describe the depth of my greenness. So I jotted down the greatest fears of my characters, and stopped. The thought never occurred to me that I should actually take my characters through their greatest fear. No. I can’t do that to them!

At a DFW Ready Writer meeting (a chapter of ACFW in Dallas/Ft. Worth) Ronie Kendig argued my point. By all means take your characters to those dark places. I got the feeling that unless things hurt, I didn’t go deep enough.

I’m also inspired by some of the terrific stories I’ve read from all three of these authors and the way their characters have unique personalities with things that I like about them and things that I don’t like. (See Reviews on My Foolish Heart, Wildflowers from Winter, and Firethorn)

So I’ve got a place to start with my character development. Only a starting place, though.

What tricks to do you have for peopling your stories? How do you make them all distinct?