When I sit down to begin a new book, I prepare an extensive background on my characters. My editors might tell you that I should spend a little less time doing this and more time honing the conflict. But I love people! What makes them tick? Why do they do the things they do? Why do they believe what they do?
And why did I chew my hair in my twenties? These and other great mysteries of life will probably never be solved.
I use several mystical and psychological tools to probe the deep underbelly of my character’s lives. One of these is the enneagram type. This helps my define characteristics and help make them consistent. It can also provide a sense of conflict. For example, the Reformer and the Achiever are naturally in conflict, although they both have good reasons for what they do.
The five elements of Chinese philosophy are keys to inner conflict and developing the character arc. What are the positive and negative aspects of each element? Who is in natural conflict? How can someone with a strong water element overcome fear to lead the life they want to lead? Or get the man they think is beyond their reach?
The “best” pickup line in the 1970s (the same era that brought you disco, bell-bottoms, and huge afros) was “What’s your sign, baby?” (What were we thinking?) The belief was that you were romantically compatible with some astrology signs and not others. But picking a sign for my characters is another fun way to develop character traits and conflict, even if I never let the reader know anybody’s sign.
So what’s my sign? If anyone I know asks me that question, I usually roll my eyes and ask, “What do you think?” They look me over for a moment and then say, “Leo?”
That’s me. Through and through. Don’t ask me what I think, because I will tell you and you might not like the answer. If there’s a leadership vacuum, I’ll step into it, often to my own detriment. But I can’t stand to see people whiffle whaffle while they try to compromise. I much better at being president than serving in a congress. (It should come as no surprise that Barrack Obama is a Leo.)
I love bright colors and strong emotions, sunsets in the mountains and sunrises on the ocean. I swoon for strength of character. I love all the wonderful things that go on between a man and a woman (and other people who love each other). On the down side, I can be … well … a bit stubborn. (I’m sure my DH and children will agree.)
There are a few Leos sprinkled in my books, and many other signs. I’d love to hear from you about what signs you think some of the characters are. Hmmm. I think that might be a great contest idea. What do you think?
Hey, baby! What’s your sign?