Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.

This week features Shannon looking into how to discover inspiration for character development.

This is an updated version of a column that Shannon Muir did for a sister site.

Where do characters come from? As I often state, all my work evolves at looking at the character as the core, and then seeing what logical plots build around that. It varies for different people, but this happens to be my approach.

It’s different for different people, so this week I will give you insight into how I tackle it.

So how do I find my characters?

There are two main ways I use:

  1. Observing people (usually strangers) while going about living my life;
  2. News stories.

In either case I start with what facts I have available to me – either an event I see in front of me, or the facts presented by a news story – and contemplate what might be untold there. How might a person who has acted the way I’ve seen or been through such an event cope with an event in a genre I like to write (for example, a mystery)?

From there, I try to figure out a logical event for them to react to.

The next step from there becomes figuring out how the event happened, and what the after-effects of said event are on the person’s life. Also, remember I’ve just started with a skeleton impression of a real-life observation; I’ll also have to build and flesh out the character along the way.

That’s when the fun begins for me, as I move away from fact and imagination takes over – though I always need to remember to keep whatever I create grounded enough to be a believable character.

Until next time!