Stories come from the ebb and flow of my imagination. I am not big on outlines, and even when I do have one, I never stick to it. I like to see where the story and the characters take me. I often find when writing I listen to my creative muse. Even when working with Lucas Astor on Blackwell, the prequel, and Damned, I had rough outlines of the story, but I added flavors to make it something special. We worked very well together and changed the context of the storyline to add to the development of the characters. Writing with a partner is challenging, and I believe the division of labors in regards to writing is vital, but when you find a partner you click with, you can perform wonders.
Very often for any paranormal book I write, the characters make their way to my hometown of New Orleans. As writers, we are always told write about what you know, and I know my city. Having grown up in the French Quarter, I was raised with all things paranormal and supernatural—and even lived next door to a voodoo priestess. The story of Magnus Blackwell and Lexie Arden may begin in Maine, but its roots are in New Orleans. I find the city adds a je ne sais quoi to the tale of both characters. Such details are vital when building characters, a reader will latch on to. If the characters in a story you write are real to you, they will be real to the reader.
Names are an essential part of building a character. How to uncover a name varies from writer to writer. Some labor for hours over what to name their hero or heroine. The name of Magnus Blackwell in Damned came from Lucas, and I don’t think a better name could have defined the character. As for Lexie, I wanted something out of the ordinary to reflect the woman she is. When writing about characters from New Orleans, I like to highlight the French heritage so pervasive in the city. I grew up with a lot of Boudreaux’s, Breaux’s, Hebert’s, Devereaux, Gaston’s, and La Jeune’s. Secondary characters, especially those raised in the heart of the Cajun culture, end up with more French first names or surnames in my stories. It does make choosing a name easier, but you also hope to make sure it sounds genuine. Something I believe every writer struggles with. We want the names to become synonymous with our character. However, it does take more than a name to make a character, but it can be the basis for a great foundation.
Creating memorable characters is like a gumbo: you have to add a lot of ingredients to make them good. A story needs distinct characters, and those characters need a good story to become unforgettable. It doesn’t matter how a writer achieves the feat, whether by meticulous outlines, or just writing and writing until they are done. In the end, how you give birth to a story is inconsequential. As long as you win the hearts of the reader, every labor pain will be well worth it.