Many readers assume a novelist has all their characters established and ready to go BEFORE they start writing. This is rarely the case for me.
I write Victorian romance for eKensington and contemporary romance and romantic suspense for Harlequin Superromance. All the books are linked through the characters and the setting…although I consciously write each book so they can be read stand-alone.
The link came because as I wrote THE SEDUCTION OF EMILY (Victorian) and FINDING JUSTICE (Harlequin), the two debuts in my series, secondary characters appeared that were in danger of taking over the story. I knew these characters would need their own book if they were to be silenced.
So as lucky as I am to have the hero and heroine more or less established for my next book, new characters continue to appear whether I wanted them in the story or not. I’m a plotter and tend to write a full-length synopsis and chapter plan before I start to write. Both the synopsis and chapter plan will only feature the hero, heroine and villain, if I have one.
There is no mention of any secondary characters or other characters from previous books at this stage.
Yet, lo and behold, a new or old character will nudge their way into the book as I write. The more vocal they are, or the easier they are to write whenever they appear on the page, leads me to know pretty quickly how long, or how often, they will appear in subsequent books.
I love it when a character appears unexpectedly because it means I am truly listening to the characters and letting the story flow how it’s supposed to be told rather than how I THOUGHT it should be told. A wholeheartedly believe an author has to have a certain amount of trust in her characters for a story to read authentically and realistically.
In romance, characters drive the story rather than the plot, so it’s vital that the characters are understandable, even if not always likeable.
Characterisation is key – always!