Character Birthing

I’ve been creating back story for the characters in my newest story. It’s so much fun to imagine why they are the way they are. Who were their parents? What are their first, middle and last names?  Who were they in high school? What do they represent to each other? Brainstorming. Character birthing. It’s the beginning of it all.

It all started one day while I was scrubbing the shower tiles in November. Don’t laugh, a girl’s gotta have a clean bathroom. Besides, I do my best thinking while I clean. I had just finished the Backspace Conference and faced a ton of edits to my novel, The Curse of the Radcliffe Rubies, before I could send out more agent submissions. I was working diligently on the edits, but feeling a bit beaten down.

Around that time, I’d come across a short story contest and dismissed it because I didn’t write short stories. But I’m not the kind of person to say never. So as I finished up the tub and grabbed the toilet brush, I decided to write a short story. But what was my premise?  Who were my characters? What story could I tell in 1500 words or less?

A challenge to say the least. But I decided to give it a shot and began crafting my concept. Within a few weeks, 1400 words were drafted and edited. The word count restriction made me weigh the value of each word. My writing was tighter than ever before with zero room to meander. And my first short story was written. Fifty or so edits later, it was polished and ready for submission in November 2009.

The results of the contest were available in February 2010. I didn’t win. But I did come away with a prize. My characters wouldn’t stop talking and living. They demanded their own novel, which I began to draft in my spare time. And now I get to daydream about their lives and how they became who they are.

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23 Responses to Character Birthing

  1. Pingback: Long Overdue Blog Awards Post « Kourtney Heintz's Journal

  2. Pingback: Character Birthing–A Look Back « Kourtney Heintz's Journal

  3. crubin says:

    It is fun crafting our babies, isn’t it? I usually have pretty detailed notes on my characters, because even if I don’t use all the info in my writing, at least I know about it, which I think ultimately makes the character more real.

    • Totally agree. :) I keep notes and enjoy finding out about them. Sometimes they hold stuff back though. But I usually get a good idea of who they’ve been and are before I start drafting. Lots of the stuff I know doesn’t make it onto the page directly but it definitely influences their actions. :)

  4. Great story, Kourtney. And I would love to read more of your earlier posts–if you repost them, we will know we are getting the cream of the crop!

    • Thanks Naomi! Back then I didn’t have much of an audience, but I loved blogging. Glad you like it. I may do it from time to time. :)

      • Hi Kourtney, an additional option would be to create a link, whenever appropriate, to earlier posts. I sometimes do this when I am passing on blog awards, sometimes choosing fun facts that will relate, so that folks can check out posts from before I had much of a following; they usually do follow the link back and comment.

  5. 4amWriter says:

    This is really neat, walking back in time. This is a good idea to lure us to your older posts. I also love remembering how a story came to be. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I always get a bit of a question and then come up with backstory to see what would make people have that issue and then I can write the book. i make notes about names and eye color and so on, just to keep it straight. glad you reposted an old one.

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    I like “reblogs” like this. When we start following a blogger after s/he’s been at it a while, we often don’t have time to go back and read through the archives. So this is a great way for a blogger to bring some of those early posts to our attention.

    And frankly, I think some of those early posts can be some of the best. We really had something to say, but didn’t have the audience yet to hear it. Now you do, and it’s cool to see what you were thinking a couple of years ago.

    And yes, I love it when those characters start taking shape. That’s one of the best times for me in the writing process. :)

    • Cool. So from time to time, I may reblog an “oldie but goodie” post. ;) I don’t usually go back through bloggers’ archives, but if they repost an old post, I do check it out.

      I agree. And it’s almost like getting to hear from my old self of 2010. Kinda cool to see where things went from there. So true. I had very little audience for a while. I really enjoyed blogging though.

      Isn’t that the coolest. I still remember the day I met one of my characters. He was sitting in a tree talking to me. Coolest experience ever. :)

  8. Pete Denton says:

    I love it when characters won’t shut up and leave you alone. Demanding a longer story is the best part. :)

  9. Glad you shared this again, Kourtney! I think sharing again is a great idea, especially when your blog readership has grown or changed. I joined your possie after this post, and enjoyed it. :)

    • Thanks, August! Definitely grown and changed since 2010. I think I only had a dozen or so followers back then. :) LOL. Thanks for joining my possie and making me part of yours! :)

  10. Androgoth says:

    Fifteen hundred words today and ninety thousand tomorrow, this is what writing is all about, the wonderful challenge to create a masterpiece, build the characters and invent all kinds of exquisite scenarios for them to act out in numerous circumstances, each spinning a thread of expectation, intriguing the reader and thrusting forever onward in the realms of enthusiasm.

    The power of the written word is so absorbing, with fiction generating a world aside from reality and yet intrinsically offering the essence of an inventive mind, I wish you well my friend.


    • Thanks. It is such a different world than any other career I’ve ever embarked upon. I cannot quite explain what I do in a day to any of my non-writer friends. But when I talk to fellow writers and I explain POV revisions and the excitement of uncovering what that other character was doing and the exquisiteness of nailing their voice. Well there is nothing that compares to that!

      Congrats on the 1500 words! It all adds up to a novel in few months.:)

      • Androgoth says:

        I noticed your request to view my Space and I have opened the gates, there are not so many postings at the moment as I have recently removed 95% of the content but perhaps you will find something of interest?

        It is mainly horror and of course a hint of tongue-in-cheek wickedness, nothing shocking but I do offer some scripts of varying genres, well sometimes I do so have a look and watch out for any Zombies on the loose :( lol

        Just kidding and welcome
        to my world of blogging :)


  11. Pingback: Five Years of Blogging | Kourtney Heintz's Journal

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