Co-Creating Characters by Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn

July 3, 2018 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , , , with 1 and 0
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Co-creating Characters | Janet Lynn & Will Zeilinger | A Slice of Orange

 

CO-CREATING CHARACTERS

by

Will Zeilinger

 

Question from a guest at one of our recent book events: “You two write crime fiction but how do you come up with some of your characters? Are they like, people you know—people like me?”

We get asked that question more often than you’d think, and the answer is that creating characters is probably one of the aspects of a story we spend the most time discussing.

Since we are co-writing the fifth book in the Skylar Drake Mysteries, our main characters are pretty much fleshed out. In each story, we reveal a little more about their personalities and histories. But these were developed before we ever wrote a word.

We made a profile of each character which included their backgrounds, their physical description, their likes and dislikes, and added any little quirks they might have. Please understand when we say quirks, we’re not mocking or making fun of a person’s physical or mental challenges, rather, some of the people we’ve known are downright weird.

This is the same process we’ve used for new characters in subsequent stories. Some of the “quirky” traits are more pronounced in some characters than in others, to the point that we always seem to find a character for our story who is plainly odd.

As to whether our characters are disguised versions of real people—We’d have to say, no. Not really. We like to “people watch” at malls, concerts, airports, the checkout line, at church and even in our writers’ groups.

When we were both working full-time, we found a never-ending supply of personalities and quirks in the people we worked with every day.

For instance, one of us worked with a person who would sit at lunch and eat in a circular pattern around his plate – usually clockwise. If you asked him a question or distracted him in any way, he would stop and return to the top or “12 o’clock” position on his plate and start over. This person had a management position but clearly qualified as quirky. We haven’t used this quirk yet, nor the one of the woman who would not eat or drink anything purple.

We’ve even drawn on classmates from childhood, high school or those we’d met on a few of our first minimum-wage jobs.

From our discreet observations, we write character sketches, talk about them and morph them into a unique personality.

These “people watching” experiences for character development also lead us to great conversational snippets that we use in some of our dialog. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You can’t write this stuff.” And in truth, sometimes great characters or dialog falls into our lap.

In our fourth co-written mystery, Slick Deal, you’ll see how Skylar Drake and Casey Dolan react with quirky characters to work out the murder. With our fifth Skylar Drake Mystery in the works, we are still discussing and creating characters for his latest adventure—and yes…we are still married!

Author Details
Author Details
Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and lives in Southern California.
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Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and lives in Southern California.
  • Veronica Jorge says:

    Hi Will and Janet, I always reading your posts because you provide helpful and informative information in a very pleasant
    and entertaining way. I wish you had your own drama/comedy tv show as a mystery solving couple. I think it would be great!

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