When writing a novel a writer should create living people;
people, not characters. A character is a caricature.
Ernest and I don't agree on many things but I do like this quote. A good book should be filled with people who are so real that you feel joy when they feel joy and sadness when they feel sadness, among other things. I'm not sure how a writer makes the leap from coming up with a name and then a body and then the soul of a person. But I think good writing captures the soul of a character and somehow puts that on paper.
In The Frontiersman's Daughter the main character, or protagonist, is Lael (pronounced LAY-el). Bet you don't know one - it's an old-fashioned name and I'm not even sure where I came up with it. But I've been carrying Lael around in my head and heart for a long time. She is simply a composite of my childhood - all my old daydreams of those early Kentucky settlers.
When Lael's story was making the round of publishers last year, I finished the sequel to The Frontiersman's Daughter, thinking it would prove I wasn't a one book wonder. But something interesting happened as I worked on this story. I took Lael out of Kentucky and set her in Scotland, a place I've never been. This is always a danger if you haven't been there but if you research well enough you can get away with it. I really liked this story and felt it had high drama and passion and all the rest. But half-way through writing the book I started missing Lael. I had lost her voice. That's the only way to describe it. Lael in book 2 was someone else entirely and no matter what I did to make her Lael, she just wasn't. I concluded that Lael's story had been told and there would be no retelling it.
Thankfully, my publisher never asked to see it. If they had, I'm sure they would have told me I had lost Lael somewhere. Instead, the editors asked that I stay in Kentucky and write two more 18th-century novels there. Whew! So this non-Lael like book went into the drawer. Maybe at some point I'll get it out, blow the dust off, and find a name for this other character. I really like the story.
I guess this points to the mystery of writing fiction. You may think a writer is in control of eveything from the pen to the paper to what goes down on paper, but it's my experience that characters, if they're really real, have a life of their own. And that is one of the joys of writing fiction.