Monday, October 04, 2010

Puzzling Out Characters by Author W.S. Gager

Please welcome, W.S. Gager, author of A Case of Infatuation and A Case of Accidental Intersection. (Just released!)

A Case of Accidental Intersection” Synopsis:
Mitch Malone hates hospitals, but when a suspicious traffic accident lands a comatose victim in the hospital, he must put that aside to find the truth. The surface looks smooth but the more the crime beat reporter looks the more bodies pop up, including a private detective and his own editor. Can he get to the truth before the surviving victim is murdered in her hospital bed and an elderly witness has a heart attack? Will he get his exclusive printed before he's the next victim?

Puzzling out Characters

Characters, you either love them or you hate them. If you don’t love them you will barely get through a book. If you do love them you will keep coming back for more. It can be difficult to come up with unique and memorable characters. It seems like all the good ones are taken like Jason Bourne, Stephanie Plum, Harry Bosch and Mitch Malone just to name a few. Creating characters is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

First you start with the corners. These would be a general description of what the character looks like, male or female, age and occupation. Then you look for the edge pieces and start filling in the details including eye and hair color, height and weight, and most memorable feature. You look for distinguishing marks. Is the person easy going or mad at the world or somewhere in between.

As the sides begin to take shape you see the characters goals and motivation start to take shape and this finishes the outside edge. You have a pretty good character so far, but anyone who does puzzles knows you have just finished the easy part and the rest is going to get tough. Same goes for characterization. This is where you are going to nail down what really makes your hero or protagonist tick. What makes them react as they do? Some writers I know have a five page list of questions they answer in the character’s point of view to define the finer points. It looks at the characters childhood, high school and college. What foods they like and their first crush. Many of these things will never make it in the book but they help shape the person in your mind. You need to know how they will react to an emergency. Will they step up and be a hero? Will they run the other way? Will they stand and watch? Will they go into hysterics?

Your puzzle is almost done now. There are just a few pieces missing. (This always happens to me. I have a piece or two missing right in the middle!) Don’t worry. As you write, these last pieces will fall into place. You will write a scene and because you know your character inside and out, his actions are clear. He/She acts like the individual you created--fully rounded, believable and loveable by your readers. Your puzzle is complete.

About the author:
W.S. Gager has lived in West Michigan for most of her life except for stints early in her career as a newspaper reporter and editor. Now she enjoys creating villains instead of crossing police lines to get the story. She teaches English at a local college and is a soccer chauffeur for her children. During her driving time she spins webs of intrigue for Mitch Malone's next crime-solving adventure.
Website - W S Gager

A Case of Accidental Intersection
ISBN: 978-1-892343-70-3
Purchase the book today from Oak Tree Books, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon
“W.S. Gager has a winner with the second in the Mitch Malone series. Full of well-written twists and turns, and a double shot of suspense. Gager’s experience as a reporter shines through every page as she weaves a compelling murder mystery. A smart and entertaining jewel of a novel.”
--Holli Castillo, Author of Gumbo Justice


The Old Silly said...

Thanks for posting this excellent article on character development. Helps put some pieces in place for a writer, hmm?

Natasha said...

Developing a character is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle - great analogy.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I need to try the puzzle approach.


I enjoy all the tips of writing, theu don't go in one ear and out of the other. Thanks much appreciated.

There is a little something for you on my latest blog.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great analogy! And sometimes it can take some fiddling with the puzzle pieces to get the full picture of the character.

Arlee Bird said...

Good approach for developing characters. ...Accidental Intersection sounds like an intriguing story.

Tossing It Out

Eric W. Trant said...

I start with the eyes, too, but I don't consider that so much a corner as the very center of the puzzle, with their relationships being the corners and edges.

Not only does the reader have to love the character, but so does the writer. If I don't enjoy writing the character, how will someone enjoy reading the character!

- Eric

~Sia McKye~ said...

Great analogy to a puzzle. Interesting article all around. I really enjoyed it ma'am.

Intriguing premise.

WS Gager said...

Thank you all for your comments. As with any puzzle, it just takes some time to get everything where it should be. As for characters the author doesn't like...for me they are the villains. You have to have them and making them unlikeable is half the fun. Many a time the characteristics of people I don't like in life often become part of my villains.
As for characters I love, there is a character named Elsie in A Case of Accidental Intersection that I loved and couldn't leave. I ended up creating a short story with her in it. If you are interested in the short story called The Eyes Have It, email me at and I will send you a pdf.

Joselyn Vaughn said...

Loved the comparison of developing characters to a puzzle.

Accidental Intersection is a great book! Hope you all get a chance to read it.


Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

What a great description for creating characters. It feels very much like putting together a puzzle. And what a cool title to a book: A Case of Accidental Intersection. Very clever!

WS Gager said...

Joselyn: Thanks for the great words. So good to hear that people like your work.

Carolina: Thanks for the kudos on the title. We have one woman in my critic group that is fabulous with coming up with titles. Currently working on the title for book 3 in the series but it isn't going so well...maybe I need to think of it as a puzzle...could work.

PS: Thank you so much Diane for hosting me today.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thanks for visiting today, WS!

Anonymous said...

Like everyone else, I do like the puzzle analogy. When making puzzles, I tend to look for the end pieces first then work myself in. The purpose is there and the details on how it is created comes later. Kind of like all of life really!


Very cool interview. Really enjoyed her ideas--puzzle is a good way of thinking through plot. And I'd never thought much about names; it's interesting how much attention she gives to that. Thanks for posting this!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Thanks for the tips. This sounds like a good book. I’ve added it to my want-to-read-list.

The Words Crafter said...

Waaaaaahhhhh!!!!! I HATE puzzles! But this helps a lot. Thanks for posting it. There's a lot of good advice here....and it helps when it's broken down like this.

RaShelle Workman said...

I like that - If/when I get stuck, I'll give it a try. Thanks. =D

WS Gager said...

Thank you all so much for your comments. Many times at writing conferences they talk about whether it is plot or charcters that make a good book great. I am a firm believer in having great characters. They will make every plot even better. Think about what makes you put down a book...Even if the plot is slow, you will keep reading. However, if you hate the hero, the reading gets difficult and easy to quit. Does it work that way for you?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane .. thanks for hosting WS - and I love the way you've described writing your characters .. bits and pieces ... and does make sense ..

I wonder if cars were invented so that writers could mull over, improve and create new characteristics? as they drive from a) to b)?!

Thanks appreciate the information .. have good weeks .. Hilary

WS Gager said...

Diane: Thanks so much for letting me visit. I had a great time and you have some terrific followers!
W.S. Gager