When Peppermint Barked, my 6th Spice Shop mystery, came out a few weeks ago, the owner of the local kitchen shop asked me to come by, chat with customers, and sign books. She’s sold a lot of my books – in a town without a bookstore, authors have to look for other partners and outlets – and I was delighted to hang out in the shop for an hour or so on a summer Saturday
The shop sells a line of infused olive oils and vinegars, and when I wasn’t chatting with potential readers, I listened in as two of the saleswomen gave samples and talked up the flavors, how the products could be used, what combos went well with each other and with what dishes. I’m a foodie, so I ate it up. But what I really loved was the language – and that’s why I want to share this moment with you. The terminology or lingo our characters use, the passion they speak with, even the sounds of their voices as they slip into something they know well and love – that’s another tool for bringing them alive on the page.
Think about that the next time you’re out and about. Eavesdrop, make notes, listen to what people say and how they talk about what interests them, whether its plants or tools or pets, or oil and vinegar.
I’m enjoying picking a theme for the month’s quotes, and hope you are, too. By the way, if you come across a quote you love about writing, art, or creativity that you’d like to share, send it to me at email@example.com — merci!
“Surely the test of a novel’s characters is that you feel a strong interest in them and their affairs—the good to be successful, the bad to suffer failure.”
— Mark Twain
(Photo: My latest box of characters, officially out June 8 but already available in some outlets!)
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.)