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Monday, May 1, 2017

When the Character Comes Alive - A Guest Post by Anne Louise Bannon

Anne Louise Bannon is celebrating the release of her latest mystery novel, The Last Witnesses.  She joins us today with a peek at how character development affects the writing process. 

By Anne Louise Bannon

If you’ve ever heard a writer talk as if her or his characters were real, living human beings, you might wonder if said writer was a little wacky. Not really. For many of us (and I’m not saying every writer), we look forward to that moment when our characters stop being words on paper and starting banging around in our heads as real people.
It means, for me, that my characters are coming from that really deeply intuitive part of me that’s the most creative. It also means that occasionally one of my characters is going to say or do something completely unexpected.
That’s what happened when I was writing my latest novel, The Last Witnesses. The mystery is set in 1925 and features Freddie Little, a millionaire socialite who happens to have written a book. Now, in the first book in the series, Fascinating Rhythm, Freddie meets his editor Kathy Briscow, who becomes his friend and (in book two, Bring Into Bondage) his wife.
We first meet Freddie’s mother, Gloria Derby Little, in Fascinating Rhythm, and as I originally saw her, she was this grand matron, completely disinterested in her adult children, kind but in a very noblesse oblige sort of way. So you can imagine my amazement when I’m writing along on book three, The Last Witnesses, and Freddie’s having tea with his mother and she mentions that she’s not only read Freddie’s book but liked it a great deal. In the book, Freddie’s jaw pretty much hits the floor. And that’s pretty much what my jaw did. What? Stuffy old Gloria not only reads but reads F. Scott Fitzgerald (who was pretty radical at the time). What the heck just happened here?
Actually, as I thought about it, it made more sense that way. Freddie must have gotten his love of writing and language from somewhere, and why not his mother, even if he didn’t realize it? Also, in a later scene, I had planned that Gloria would accept Kathy and her marriage to Freddie. The stuffy old matron I had originally envisioned would have had a much harder time coming to terms with Kathy, who comes from a poor farming family in Kansas. So it was much better if Gloria turned out to be a very well-read, lively and reasonably open-minded woman.
Fortunately, it didn’t mess up the plan I’d made for my plot, and Gloria is turning out to be quite interesting, as I’m discovering while writing Book Four. I have had it happen in another book (and another series) where someone came to life in an odd way and changed everything. But the story was much better for it.

It’s all about learning to trust that deeply intuitive place in my brain. And it’s a lot of fun when it happens. Even if I have some re-writing to do. Because if a character is doing something odd, that means he or she is becoming real, and that’s the best part of all, even if it makes me sound a little wacky when I’m talking about it.

About the Author
Anne Louise Bannon is an author and journalist who wrote her first novel at age 15. Her journalistic work has appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Wines and Vines, and in newspapers across the country. She was a TV critic for over 10 years, founded the YourFamilyViewer blog, and created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog with her husband, Michael Holland. She also writes the romantic fiction serial WhiteHouseRhapsody.com. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters.


  1. I so agree! I love it when our characters surprise us. If we don't believe they are real, how can we expect our readers to?

    Loved meeting you yesterday.

  2. When characters step away from the writer's control, the best part of the story begins. And there's no way to know when that's going to happen. Sometimes I'm not even sure the character will be liked by readers, but there he or she is and I have to accept it.


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