“Often times the best inspiration comes within us.” Writer Meghan Holloway shares with us how she fleshes out her characters to drive the plot.
Storytelling is, at heart, an exploration of the human condition. More than evocative imagery or lyrical prose or a captivating plot, a story must have a character at its center in whom I can invest.
Achieving a fully-fleshed character is one of the most challenging aspects in writing. Creating a paragon or a villain is a simple thing, but also a flat and unsatisfying achievement. Building a well-rounded character—humane, flawed, fallible, and nuanced—is a task as formidable as it is rewarding.
We writers tend to be a solitary lot for we pursue a sequestered craft. We are watchers, though, sentinels of interaction, cartographers of existence. It is through this lifelong pursuit of observation that we find the lens through which to view the human experience and the clay with which to build our characters.
When I tell a story, I have a two-fold beginning: I have a plot arch in mind first or a particular setting and event in history I want to explore; but the key piece that moves this germ from idea to tale is character. The plot is what creates the arc of storytelling; the character is the vehicle in which the reader is transported.
“My dearest darling …” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.
I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, finished my graduate work in an all-girls school in the blustery north, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Appalachians, writing my third and fourth novels, and hanging out with my standard poodle.