Last week I announced a new feature – Bonus Gatherings – and today I want
to present another one: Behind The Gathering. The idea for this feature is to
share what went on behind the scenes as I wrote the story. Since a lot of this
may necessitate trips into my mind it may be a scary segment to read.
The question I’m asked most often at author events is whether the characters in my stories are based on real people. That is followed by looks of disappointment when I tell them that they are not. My characters are fully figments of my imagination.
I suppose it doesn’t help that I continue on and explain that my characters start off as nothing more than a plot need. If I’m writing about an LDS sponsored space program intended to kick off the last great pioneer trek then I might decide I need a character that promotes the thrill and excitement of exploration. I’d make it an energetic tween, probably a girl because both of those choices open several interesting story possibilities.
Apparently, that is not what my fans want to hear. Perhaps they are hoping they can meet the real-life inspiration for the characters in my stories. And in the future I might start doing that. Maybe I should just avoid sharing my very clinical approach at character creation or at least focus on the thrill that I get as I watch how the characters develop during the writing process to become what passes for actual people.
Calvin McCord is a good example of this. He started out as a need. I needed a character with a top-down look at the situation. I needed a character who would know what was going on not only in the United States government, but the political and military institutions around the world. So I made him the Secretary of State.
Once I had a character in place to observe the destruction of the Constitution and the quick unraveling of civilization I needed to mold him into a heroic figure that my readers would root for. Not only did I make him an old soldier still wanting to serve his country, but I did my best to craft him as the last honest politician.
Then I gave him friends, interests, personality, and some history. Most of that flowed out of me a piece at a time as I need the information to complete a scene. In the end it all adds up to a reasonably life-like representation of a person.
Of course, the follow-on question about characters is normally: If I had authorization to cast all of the characters for a movie version of The Gathering, who would I pick to play Calvin McCord?
The first image that came to mind was Lee Marvin. His voice and his demeanor are all I could hope to expect from my favorite character in the story. But that was really a predictable choice.
As I thought about it more, I liked the idea of using Brian Cox. Especially as he appeared in The Bourne Supremacy.
And there is this month’s behind the scenes look at The Gathering. I encourage you to leave a comment and let me know what you thought about this segment. Do you want more? Should I stop? Does this shatter your impressions of my characters? Or do you have someone specific that you would like me to discuss next time?