Characters writing themselves


copAfter my critique group gave me a not-too-subtle push to get on the stick and write, I did. My first chapter is finished (first draft, anyway), and I started the second. It feels good.

One of the most enjoyable things about writing fiction is that the characters often take the author in surprising directions. I have sketched out each chapter and written short back stories on every character to give me a sense of their personalities. However, I was as surprised as Janelle that while getting a bite to eat at 392 Caffe, she would run into the local police officer who had worked the case that the Chicago Tribune reporter was in town to write about. I hadn’t planned for them to meet like this and wasn’t even sure that they’d meet at all. But the restaurant is just a few blocks from the Clinton police station, so when I was describing the lunch patrons, it made sense for one of them to be a cop. It was only when Janelle was talking with the waitress that she and I discovered he was that particular officer. I kept writing to find out what she’d do. Janelle’s decision to go over and introduce herself told the reader more about her and gave us both a clue as to what Sergeant Fredrick Jensen is like.

Chapter two is Janelle’s interview with the officer from his perspective. He’ll approach the encounter the same way he performed his investigation – cautiously and methodically. Because of the point of view, we’ll gain some insights that Janelle can only surmise and some that she will have no way of knowing. I’m as interested as she is to see where Fred takes us.

That interview, like the others in the book, underscores one of the story’s themes: how well one person truly knows another. Each of us displays various personality traits to different people. One friend might bring out the intellectual side, while another might elicit the fun-loving part. We aren’t being disingenuous; we don’t think about it. Like the blind men and the elephant, each would describe us slightly differently, depending on how they experience us. As Nietzsche is often paraphrased, truth is a matter of perspective.

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