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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Need Characters?

Need Characters?
Attend your Summer Reunion!

If you are a writer holding an invitation to a reunion, what are you waiting for? RSVP YES!

Not only will you reconnect with old friends or family, but your attendance will be rewarded with a surprising roster of characters to add to your writing power!

I recently attended the staff reunion of a wonderful camp I worked for when I was a teenager. Those were the years in which we ran along the brink of life, deciding the biggies: what we wanted to do with our lives, where we would attend college, what values we stood for, who we wanted to love. They were exciting summers of goofy, spontaneous fun and deep conversations. Together, we enjoyed endless days of lakeside fun and evening songs to guitar-playing around bonfires.

A gold mine 
At the reunion it was a personal thrill to see those beloved faces and hear voices that remained familiar even after three decades of absence, but as a writer, it was a gold mine. When you see people daily, or yearly, changes are not so obvious. At a reunion, however, you have a clear picture in your mind how people were “back then” – and your writer’s mind can easily conjure the stories that might have happened "in between" when you see them in the "here and now." There were many surprises; those "most likely to succeed" weren't necessarily the ones who did. 

Personalities did not change; we slid into our old personas and friendships with very little difficulty (aided by the fact most of us didn't bring our kids!) What changed most was everyone's level of self-confidence. We had made those big, tough choices and knew ourselves pretty well, by now, even if lives were still in stages of transition or challenged in different ways. 

As a writer, I was fascinated by everyone's life choices. Most fascinating to me was how the common ground we had shared at camp remained a driving force in our lives. The smallest moments shared back then--even specific jokes--were recalled. It made me realize that every interaction we have with others might have a long-lasting impact that we cannot possibly imagine. 

Brainstorm your cast of characters
The next time I plan the cast of a new novel, I plan to think about where those characters have been, and where they want to go. Even if the story doesn't cover that long range of time, just knowing characters that well will help add details and depth to the book.

 Did you glean any new characters from your reunion trip?


  1. Hi Suzy. I missed this post earlier. Great ideas! Who stayed the same, who changed, why? Don't forget about the ones who don't make it. Are they 400 lbs and embarrassed to come? What about the gifted ones who died young-- what could the world have been like if they'd lived? Personally I like to drink it all in and let my subconscious blend all that into the little mental machine that creates characters. David

  2. Love it -- never thought about the "characters" who opted out...there's a story there, too! Thanks for stopping by, David!