Hey Pia! I really enjoy reading all your stories (especially the Fae Tales Verse ugh it's so good) and just how diverse all the characters are and how their personality and characters in general are all so different. I was just wondering how you normally get the ideas for writing your stories. How do you normally create a personality for your characters? Does it just like... progress with the story or what?
Glad you’re enjoying all the stories! *bounces happily*
Hmm… normally I create characters before the story (not always, but certainly enough of the time that I can brainstorm characters and then the world comes second).
I’m trying to think of a good example. So I’m going to look at the Perth Shifters series. Specifically, let’s look at the book Little Star, which I haven’t written yet, but will probably come after Blackwood.
For that, I came up with the characters first. In fact one character per book ends up my ‘focal character’ and then I build their partner, and the story, around them.
I knew I wanted a young, driven chocolatier who enjoys sweet things and vintage music. Why? I just had an image of this guy with pastel painted nails sweeping out his cafe/chocolaterie at the end of a day, and quietly singing along to Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Someone to Watch Over Me.’ I knew he was deeply romantic, but very unlucky in love, so he surrounds himself with other forms of romance, and forgets about it. He has a great friend in Braden, his room-mate, so it’s not like he’s lacking for love.
He’s a wolf shifter, an omega, but he doesn’t have time for his heats, so he takes suppressants. Sometimes he’ll use beta scent maskers too. His cafe is ‘shifter friendly’ - but most of his clients are tourists, since the chocolate he makes his critically acclaimed throughout Australia for its quality.
Over time, I was like okay, but why do we care about him? What’s his love story? What’s his back story? Where’s the plot?
I knew - with me wanting trauma in the background of most of my characters - that he’d have child abuse in his history. But he never talks about it, and he pretends it’s not there. He’s in a complex situation with his family now, and his brother hates him (for reasons that will be revealed). It’s also why Aodhan has issues being an omega, he’s internalised some crap around what he was told about it. Yet another reason he struggles to open up to people, because he’s sensitive about dragging his baggage into relationships.
Then I imagined a second character - the other main character - Leo, a very successful sculptor who travels around for inspiration. He’s a beta, and a pretty well-adjusted shifter, who thinks it’s amazing that he doesn’t have to hide who he is, like his parents did. He’s been coming to Aodhan’s chocolaterie, Little Star, for a long time now, and they’re loose friends. Leo finds Aodhan gorgeous, and would like to date him, but he senses that Aodhan either doesn’t date, or something else is going on there. He’s not someone to push, he doesn’t want to alienate his friend. Aodhan loves looking at pictures of Leo’s sculptures, and thinks he has the most beautiful hands. But soon Leo is off again, to teach another course on sculpting, and Aodhan forgets about him.
Except that lately, Aodhan has been thinking about Leo more and more. He knows he’s demisexual, and it’s occurred to him that being around Leo as a friend, on and off, for a couple of years, has actually allowed him to trust Leo enough to want more from him. But how would that happen? Leo travels, and Aodhan hasn’t been in a successful relationship before. Leo seems carefree and spirited, and Aodhan is tied by invisible ropes to his family, and has a business to run, and doesn’t really get ‘time off.’ Where’s the romance in that? Aodhan wants things to be romantic and beautiful all the time, but Leo understands that in order to make a wonderful sculpture, you have to sometimes make some ugly things first, or go through an ‘ugly phase.’
It’s a good thing Leo knows that, because he’ll be able to help Aodhan through this part, as they find their way together.
Therefore, the plot will centre around: Aodhan’s issues with his family, and delinking from them when he can, alongside learning how to deal with Leo’s frequent absences, and learning how to have a relationship while still keeping his love for romance alive. I want him to be happy, therefore, it will be a romance with a happy ending.
This is how you might go from character to plot, as opposed to plot to character.
So there you go, this is kind of what my process looks like. Or can look like. Aodhan comes first. I have a glimmer of an image first, not even all the bits and pieces of his character. (I still don’t have them, I love learning a character as I write them).
Then other characters often form (I imagined Mosk before I imagined Eran, Braden before Coll, etc.) and from there, I get a sense of the world, and where the major conflict points might be. Conflict points are normally internal, rather than external. They tend to come from the character, as opposed to being random things like a mugging that happen outside of the character. With the exception of Fae Tales, that has a mixture of both.
For really big stories, the process takes a lot longer. For example with Cold Red Light, which is an upcoming Bull/Cullen fic, I have ‘Cullen first’ and ‘then Bull’ and then ‘other ensemble characters’ (Dorian), and then plot. And I’m still formulating some of the major plot points around them. I won’t really feel comfortable starting the story until I have those. Sometimes major plot/conflict points are just big emotional points for the characters.
As for the images of the characters, sometimes I really have to search for them, and sometimes they’re spontaneous. They just appear, like I’m seeing a highlights reel from a movie.
Aodhan in the cafe, sunlight streaming through as the sun sets, wearing his apron and smeared in bits of chocolate and smiling to himself, his strawberry blond hair going in every direction? I didn’t ‘build’ a character to fit that, he was just there. I needed to find his name, and I needed to figure out what to call his chocolaterie, but the…essence of his personality and his sweetness, that appeared.
In the demon series I’m thinking about working on, I had an image of a young man holding a locket, turning it over and over in hands that were covered in ink and callouses and little cuts. He has wild red hair and very sharp eyes, and he’s up in an attic, and you can hear yelling and banging beneath him, so he must be a thief who’s just stolen yet another thing. You might even assume the locket has been stolen, but it hasn’t been. It’s a relic of his family history, and he’s determined to make his grandfather turn in his grave. A slow, wicked smile moves across his face, and he crosses the attic to look out of the tiny, dusty window at the Mage-craft school that he’s temporarily escaped yet again. He’s going to show all of them, he’s going to make them regret underestimating him.
His name? No idea. Details? Pfft. Who knows. His partner? Only the vaguest of vagaries.
But that will be enough for me to start thinking about how to build a novel, lol.
I do get visions of an awful lot of characters I never end up writing something for. And I have a backlog of characters and half-formed stories at any one time.
Um, otherwise, I’ll invent characters as I need them (Ondine and Gulvi were ‘suddenly invented characters’ and look at them now, lol), and I can generally trust that plot will figure itself out.
The Ice Plague was very difficult in some respects because I needed to get a lot plotted, and so much of the plot is actually external events happening to the characters. I think that’s why it’s taken so much longer to get started, tbh, and also why I seem so insecure about it. Because it’s so very different to how I normally do things. *thumbs up*
Not sure this rambling has helped anyone, but yall basically have a summary for Little Star now! Lol.