What a great time I had last weekend at the Flathead River Writers’ Conference in Kalispell! In my Sunday afternoon craft class on character, I detoured a bit to talk about how I develop my characters and use that detail to flesh out my idea. I referred to the character sheets I create for each book, but alas, did not have a copy to share. Here are the topics I explore for each character:
– Physical characteristics
– Family & friends
– Personality traits & their source
– Images: is there a particular image associated with this character?
– Goals & motivation – generally & in this novel
– Conflict, both internal and external
– Growth: General story line
(A few of these items, and other aspects of my method — such as it is — are drawn from Jess Lowery’s Pyramid Method, which I discovered in The Writer, February 2011; the article is reprinted by the Mystery Writers of America — Jess teaches it in a class at the traveling MWA University.)
A recent shooting in Kalispell, Montana raises both the “Castle doctrine”–that a resident of an occupied structure is justified in using deadly force to resist an intruder if he or she believes it’s necessary to prevent the intruder from assaulting him or her–and the “stand your ground” law–that a person who is lawfully in a place and is threatened with bodily harm does not have a duty to retreat or call law enforcement before using force.
Writers interested in using either of these doctrines in their stories should read this article in the Daily Inter Lake, which includes a detailed summary of the Flathead County Attorney’s report to the Kalispell Police Chief, declining to prosecute. It’s not often that we get to see a prosecutor’s analysis of the facts and law behind a decision to prosecute or not.
Then read this interview with the dead man’s wife, who had been involved, at some level, with the shooter, witnessed the shooting, and strongly disagrees with the decision not to prosecute.
Update: And here’s the Inter Lake account of the prosecutor’s press conference, discussing his decision-making process.
The old Flathead County Courthouse — still a county office building. (Photo from a postcard collection at the Montana Historical Society.)