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How Annie Develops Her Characters

annie likes words

Some of the best writing advice I ever received was this: your characters don’t drive your plot, they are your plot.  Their brilliant or stupid choices decide what the hell happens between the front and back covers of your book, so make them good.  In this spirit, I’m going to share a little bit about how I develop and name my characters as well as some of the key aspects that I think make a character lifelike.

Step One: Give him a name.

This might seem counterintuitive, but I find that a character appears more holistic and more reachable from a development standpoint if he or she has a name.  The first thing we learn about a stranger is his name, so why not do the same thing with our characters?

What’s important here is context.  Where and when was your character born?  This influences name selection because certain…

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Poetry

Cone Home

I pluck a pine cone

from the floor of pines

 

and peek

at the tiny world

 

between the cone’s

teeth. I break apart

 

the layers,

snapping them

 

with the same satisfaction

as breaking up

 

a bar of chocolate,

piece by piece.

 

I’m swallowed whole,

taking up the heart

 

of an ant. The people

inside greet me

 

as one of their own,

feeding me

 

nectar

from the cone’s core.

 

I’d like to say

thanks and sorry

 

for the trouble;

doing so would reveal

 

I’m not one of them

at all, just a stranger

 

who walks in the woods

gathering pine cones.