Character development: Daniel takes me on a tour

I wanted another interview with my main character, Daniel. (After five tries, he’s seems o.k. with this name.)

So how do I get in contact with him again? The first time I interviewed him, I was chopping onions and I thought about him just being there in my kitchen, like a real person. This time I’m sitting at the computer. Not always the best place for inspiration. So I got up to clear my head.

How can I call him up?

It felt a little eerie, like I was summoning supernatural forces.  I knew I was not trying to contact the dead or the unseen spirit world, but writing has gotten me into the business of creating people from bits and pieces of other people. What have I become? A literary Frankenstein? A character conjurer?

I don’t want to get creepy about this business of character building, but it’s an interesting ‘walk’ that I didn’t expect would be so challenging. I’m pretty grounded in reality, but I know there’s a fine line where we, as humans, can lose ourselves in the imaginary world.

But ‘call’ was the trigger word for me. How do I call him? On the phone, of course. No séance or candles needed.

It worked perfectly. I called Daniel and asked if he would take me on a tour of his mother’s house. This was the house she abandoned…the same way she had abandoned Daniel. It was an unloved, unkept house and I saw for myself what kind of life he’d had with her.

What I learned about my main character by this bit of role playing was very interesting. In spite of his neglect…having too little upbringing and too much exposure,  Daniel surprised me with a small, significant thing. After he struggled to get the door unlocked, he backed up and held it open to let me in first.

Daniel was a natural born gentleman.

Why read?

I love C.S. Lewis’s powerfully simple answer:

We read to know we are not alone.

We learn we are not alone in our struggle to make sense of this world. We learn that everyone throughout time struggles with various aspects of hope and despair, good and evil, love and hate, along with all the varying degrees of our emotional makeup as humans. Stories are what we share of our ourselves that make us human.

As readers, we applaud or scorn various books and viewpoints. As writers, we have the job of examining the depths of human consciousness and experience to try and make an entertaining or inspiring story. Readers and writers become intrinsically connected by this sharing.

Reading a good book makes us a little bigger than we were before. We’ve entered a new world, met new people and vicariously experienced their lives. A well turned out phrase can imprint an image or idea within us, changing  our essence in subtle ways we are not even aware of.

I’m thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. Until I read it, I rarely thought of dandelions as anything more than weeds (or wild herbs to be generous). But there’s another perspective on just about everything isn’t there? Bradbury’s grandfather saw the flowers as the perfect choice for making his summer wine. Those ‘golden flowers that flooded the world, dripped off lawns onto brick streets, tapped softly at crystal cellar windows and agitated themselves so that on all sides lay the dazzle and glitter of molten sun.’

I could have spent my whole life thinking of dandelions as undesirable and needing of eradication and I’m sure I’d be just fine. But reading this book about Bradbury’s childhood, so rich in description and high value instilled in small ‘insignificant’ things sends ripples of change throughout my consciousness.

As a reader, once I absorb a good book, it becomes part of who I am.

What books stand out in your mind as having a great influence on how you think…and for writers, how you write.


072Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.    Tillich, Paul