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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Stephanie Burkhart

Creating Characters

After I get the "germ" of an idea for a story and let it ferment, then I work on creating my characters.

I usually start with the hero. In The Hungarian, Count Matthias Duma has a secret – he's a werewolf. I started drafting his timeline first. When was he born? Who were his parents? I filled out a mini-character biography including 3 likes and 3 dislikes. Then I cast the character.

For me, casting the characters give an extra layer to the characterization – a visual picture that I can see of my character. For Matthias, I cast Jonathon Rhys-Meyers. I've seen Rhys-Meyers in The Tudors, and one of the things I thought he captured well was simmering intensity. I used that for Matthias's character. Matthias has a lot of simmering emotions underneath the cool presentation he gives the world due to his condition.

I did the same for my heroine, Katherine Archibald, creating a biography for her and I cast an actress that I saw on As The World Turns, Justine Cotsonas. Justine had the look I wanted for Katherine – long flowing curly hair that Matthias could sink his fingers into. Justine's smile in her stills speaks to an innocence and purity which I brought to the character.

Lastly, I wrote several short stories allowing me to really know the characters well before I sat down with the novel.

It may sound like a lot of work, but this process allowed me to create characters that I enjoyed writing about, full of life and love.

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Liana Laverentz said...

That's a different idea, writing short stories about your characters in order to get to know more about them. I've never thought of that. You're so creative, Steph!

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Good Morning, Liana. Yes, it really helped. I kept my short story around 4K. It took maybe a week or two write, but I felt very confident about the characters when I started my novel writing.


Keena Kincaid said...

I agree with Liana. That's a very unique idea. I'll have to try it next time I'm creating a character.

DanielleThorne said...

What a creative way to get a tangible handle on your characters--a three-D picture--very smart!

Margaret Fieland said...

Steph, love your idea of writing a short story about your characters .. great idea.

Interestingly, the main character in my current work in process came out of an exercise for a class in which we wrote a scene involving a conflict.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

KEENA - Let me know how it works for you. I had a fun. It may be a little time consuming, but it saved me time in the long run.

DANI - Yeah, In a way it's time consuming, but it really paid off for me. For my upcoming novel, "The Count's Lair," I only needed one draft instead of 3.

MADCAPMAGGIE - Characters are wonderful because they grow out of anything. Enjoy them!


Sherry Gloag said...

I love the idea of creating short stories to get to know your characters. Have you ever included any of your short stories into your books?
Thanks for sharing another great topic.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Steph,
Another wonderful method to develop in depth characters. Please keep those tips coming.

Diane Craver said...

I always like reading how a writer develops characterization and their stories. Yours is interesting - thanks for sharing, Steph!

Historical Writer/Editor said...

Your characters sound well-rounded. I'll bet the work was worth the effort.