“While I’m writing, I don’t worry about the usual character bio points, but there is another list of questions that I’m asking myself:
“10 observations this character would make
10 things he or she would fight for
10 decisions he or she would make
what he or she thinks about when daydreaming
5 sensitivities, and how they developed
5 of their personal childhood horrors
5 intentions they have, maybe 10
5 reasons for something they do or something about their appearance that is directly related to the story
“They may not all directly pertain to the story being told, but they tell me a lot about the character, just like they would tell me a lot about my friends.
“For me, if the character won’t come, I’ll write something else entirely, but I’ll write twice as much. I’ll write on how to write. In this very sure and certain voice that thinks it knows something. I’ll write on what makes people read. I’ll write on how to write fairy tales. I’ll write about conflict or plot until I learn something about it, coughing up some of that internalized information like a cat’s hairball. I’ll write letters to the people I trade manuscripts with, critiquing their work if I’m not making progress on mine. I ignore my uncooperative characters entirely.
“If that doesn’t work in a few days, I stop reading or writing anything else. I don’t watch TV or movies. I do housework or gardening. And pretty soon, my characters come back muttering about a missed lunch. And we fry half a pound of bacon, or make popcorn, or get bags and bags of peanut M&M’s and settle down in front of the computer.”
Audrey Couloumbis was born in Illinois. She currently lives in upstate New York with her husband.
copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.