Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Casting my Characters in the Fall

For some reason I've received a lot of questions this week asking do I use people from my day job in my books? Do I kill off former bosses? My staff kept asking if some day they'd get to be heroes or perhaps victims? And would they recognize themselves?

No. No. No. And another no just to be sure. Then they ask again. So I reply that my books start with a character's voice and often with a season. The voice probably comes from years of running the high school theater and then later working several years in live theater and six more in the opera (where I was a computer tech, but I heard a lot of magnificent voices). I'm also a movie buff which doesn't hurt.

Voice tells you me so much about a character. Beyond accent, there is region, and beyond region there is pacing. My characters tend to think quickly and speak abruptly... Of course, I'm currently writing military romantic suspense so that makes some sense.

But also season. Book two of my Night Stalkers, "I Own the Dawn," is fresh out and I'm proofing the final galleys on book three "Wait Until Dark" due out in February. And the books are set mid-summer and mid-winter respectively. I find that shapes the characters and the actions.

I'm becoming fascinated with how we fit into the seasons here in the Rose City of Oregon. My wife and I take long walks year round. In winter, we are among the few and brave, it is a wet land here in the Pacific NW. In the spring, everyone is too excited by the return of sun, or too wound up by the overlong continued rains of a late season, to have a pace at all. Crowds and characters jitter about in the spring.

In summer there is a strange stop-start rhythm. People flow forward with a mad rush of the need to be intensely active for all of the extended daylight, which runs from 5am to past 9pm at mid-summer. Only to be balked by the heat, suddenly languid, but without that easy pace of tropical environs.

But it is fall now in the Pacific Northwest. The International Rose Test Garden in Portland is proudly displaying its final splashes of color for the season, still shocking with their vibrancy in the shorter daylight hours. The air is fresh with overnight drizzles. And it is the only time of year when people move and behave at a predictable pace.

Fall is when people mosey. They relish the last of the sun; still warm enough for sidewalk cafes, as long as you're wearing a light sweater. Still warm enough to justify a scoop of gelato on your way home. It's my favorite time to walk through the city. The summer run and stop is over. The tourists are gone. The neighborhood settles.

The seasons are where I find my character's pace. Kee (book #2) can only exist in the summer's heat. Connie (book #3) is as cool and steady as the winter snows she must travel through. And I find my characters on the street as well. An overheard turn of phrase, a hand gesture, a pose of attitude. I drink them in as I wander through the city and I bring them to the page.

My coworkers? Sorry, not so much folks. The workaday world doesn't have that fire of who we are. Day jobs are when we fit into the molds of others, of our employers. It is the unguarded expression, the bright laughter, and the dancing leaves of fall where my characters come to life.

Always my favorite time of year.

9 comments:

  1. I love setting my books in Autumn. It's so easy to describe the crisp air, colorful maple leaves, the taste of apples...

    As for using real people...I use fans names when they want me to, but make sure they know the character has nothing to do with them.

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  2. I write setting best when I'm writing the season it is now, and if one of my books is set in winter but comes out in summer, that irks me. This is what happens when a country girl tries to write fiction...
    I take the walks too: That last cutting of round bales is coming off this week, the undergrowth has gone to red and yellow, the winter coats are coming into evidence on the beasts.
    Maybe I write so I have an excuse to notice that I live.

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  3. Awesome post.
    Like Grace, I like writing the season in which I am living right now. However, I wrote all of the Christmas books in the middle of summer heat so I had to pretend that it was snowing instead of three digit numbers on the thermometer!
    It rained last night so our air has that fresh wet smell that promises that summer is really on the way out and fall is right around the corner. It's my favorite season so I'm looking forward to it!

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  4. Same here, Carolyn, I was writing A SEAL Wolf Christmas in the dead of summer. That's like the dead of winter only desert hot. Though we were still green.

    I love fall, though it's not colorful here and it's over in a blink of an eye. We've had 90's all week, and next week it's 79 for a high. That's our fall. Then it will be cold. All of a sudden. I love seasons, but here we really don't get much of them. Someone once said we have hot, hotter and hottest.

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  5. I've found my employer's online company directory is a great source of character names, and I must admit that I've taken a real-world colleague's annoying communication tendencies, exaggerated them, and given them to a not-so-likeable continuing character.

    One cool thing about living in MN is that the seasons change fairly radically, and quite frequently. Last week, it snowed in Duluth - on the last day of summer. ;-)

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  6. I love summer, always summer. Bare feet, heat, and then the cooling rain.
    Loved the pictures of your flowers.

    Amelia

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  7. I like Spring, maybe because it takes so long for fall to make it to Houston. Spring comes pretty rapidly and is gone all too quickly.

    I write most of my books set during the Season, which is after Easter, so I don't get to choose the season all that much.

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  8. I always try to write the season that the book will be released. The months might shift a bit (writing December for a February release), but my books (being suspense) tend to have fairly short timelines so I can do that. I also do my best to write my series in real time as well. Six months between books release = six months between book settings and background event progression.

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  9. Beautiful flowers! I look forward to reading the next book in the series, the first two were great reads (0:

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