Getting to know your character on WIP Wednesday

As I near the end of the first draft of The Realm of Silence, I’m well into planning for the next book, House of Thorns. For me, the first step is usually a scene, and the scene that sparked this story came to me years ago. A woman in her early twenties, on a rickety ladder reaching for an early rose blooming on the side of a house. A late snow is beginning to fall, and below in the garden a large and angry man shouts at this intrusion, startling the woman so that she falls.

I have most of the rest of the plot now, but I’m working on character, and this week I’m inviting you other authors to share with me about one of your characters. I find out a lot about my characters before I start writing. I answer character questionnaires. I give them backstories and birthdays and hobbies. I interview them. I explore their greatest longings and their deepest wounds. I find out more when I start to write, but I’m not at that stage yet in House of Thorns.

Here’s some of what I know about Hugh Gavenor, the large shouting man, who is known as Bear.

Bear has always been big for his age. As a small child, he had a sister eleven months older, who was dainty, very clever, charming, and the apple of their parents’ eyes. She, it was, who gave Bear the nickname that has stuck to him throughout his life. His parents thought it was cute, because he was large, clumsy, and slow at his lessons (he has mild dyslexia).

The family were minor gentry: effectively farmers, but with pretensions.

When Bear was ten, his mother and sister died of an infection he brought home from the nearby village. Afterwards, his father sent him to school and pretty much became a recluse. He neglected the estate, and when he died the property sold for enough to buy Bear his colours. Bear served in the army until after Waterloo.

From early in his school career, Bear displayed a talent for trading, buying things other people didn’t want, fixing them, and selling them for a profit. This is now how he makes his living. He buys broken-down estates, does them up, and sells them to mill-owners and other newly rich so they can make believe they have moved up the classes. Bear is successful and rich, and always waiting for people to discover that he is still the large, clumsy, slow boy who was mocked at home and thrashed at school because of his mistakes in reading.

In particular, he is nervous of women, particularly clever or beautiful women, and even more if they are daintily built, as his mother and sister had been.

Naturally, my heroine is a pocket-sized Venus and as smart as can be.

Watch for a marriage of inconvenience that suits neither of them. Or so they think.

Your turn. How do you get to know your characters, and what do you know about them? An excerpt is fine, or a snippet of an interview, or just a bit of exposition.

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5 thoughts on “Getting to know your character on WIP Wednesday

  1. Hi Jude. That painting is stunning. I enjoyed getting to know Bear and his way of making a living appeals to me immensely.

    Ok, so I had an unusual way of writing my current (& first major) dual timeline WIP. I wrote a short story about an aging recluse who stole my heart and took me on a ride. That little story has become where my book ends, and I’ve written in scenes, using different settings and new characters as the story has unfolded. There’s plenty going on – too much in fact. I’ve had to split my book into two now. My character hasn’t changed one bit in the 150k I’ve written since, except that she now has a full story arc.
    Jay.

  2. I’m a planner, and usually write up a brief paragraph about each character before I write the story – general description, motivations, alignment, pet phrases, quirks, flaws, etc. Often I have a character from films or shows in mind – for instance, I once fashioned a character similar to Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter, or Lucius Varenus in Rome. Of course, once I start writing, that character sometimes just becomes someone different, and I adjust the story to match their personality.

Love hearing from you