I woke up this morning thinking about Phoenix Worthy.
Oh? You haven’t heard of this guy?
He’s only the world’s greatest ghost hunter ever to come out of Tybee Island, GA. He is the main character in my debut novel, HAUNTING INJUSTICE (and my work in progress, book II of the Phoenix Worthy story.)
I’ve been reading a lot lately about character development and the process of inspiration. How does a character go from a single thought to a seemingly living breathing person moving about from page to page? I think it works differently for different people, but I can share with you how this particular character developed.
I was working as a sales engineer for a factory automation supplier when I was laid off in January of ’07. The job loss came somewhat out of the blue and I started thinking about what is the first thing I should do. Oddly enough, the first thought that came to me was a new tattoo commemorating the event. So, later in the day I was on the phone talking to friend about it and mentioned that I was going to get a new tat. The obvious question was asked – What are you thinking about getting? Having already considered the image, I replied, “A phoenix.”
After a few seconds of silence she replied, “I can see that. You are phoenix worthy.”
My writer’s ear heard, what a great name for a character!
So then it was a matter of fleshing out Phoenix. My education is in engineering so my writing preparations tend to reflect that. The first thing I did was decide what I wanted Phoenix to be. I’ve always liked ghost stories so it didn’t take long for me to put this character together as a ghost hunter. I started building Phoenix on a character sheet: what he looked like, how old he was, his family background, his education, and anything else that defined who Phoenix was.
Then, I added the cast of characters to round out the story and did the same sheet for each of the supporting cast. When I was done I had six core characters. There are probably fifteen or so bit players that get sprinkled in through the novels pages, but these folks only got added to their own sheet with names, who they were and what part they played. One of the things I did when I got the core characters developed was to build a MySpace page for the ghost hunter. You can find that HERE. What that did is let me really get to know the character. It was a reference point that I could easily go to.
About halfway through the novel it occurred to me that something was needed. There seemed to be an imbalance in the story and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Ultimately, I decided that Phoenix needed a love interest to compliment his character. In hindsight, she was a brilliant addition to the story. I had to go adjust the outline based on what she was bringing to the table, but ended up with a much better story because of it.
So for me, I plan like an engineer when I write. Character mock-ups, outline and location descriptions are paramount and keeps me driving towards completion.
Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson