Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eight Characters

The winner of the Seven by George giveaway is leatherdykeuk, who should e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com with your full name and ship-to info so I can get these books out to you.

Before I wrote my fourth Darkyn novel, Night Lost, I spent some time creating character journals for eight of the characters in the novel. Writing a journal in character may sound slightly demented, but it's a good way to get into the character's head and get to know them a little better. I have a lot in common soul-wise with Gabriel, the protagonist of the book, and Alexandra, the protagonist of the series, so their personas were the easiest to slip on.

From Alex's character journal: If Michael doesn't show up soon and get me out of here I swear to GOD I am going to kick some immortal high lord ass. Richard is out of his mind if he thinks I'll help him stop what's happening to him. Or maybe I should fix him. I could start feeding him hamster blood. Watch the high lord of the Darkyn run circles in the wheel for the damn portcullis. Michael, where the hell are you?

Gabriel only wanted to write bad poetry in his journal, and I let him. He tended to doodle when the verse got truly pathetic. Michael and Nicola, both veteran schemers, used their pages to outline plans and timelines and stuff. Likewise with Richard and Elizabeth, but they were more on the scary side and I think that's probably the last time I let Richard set up house in my brain for any longer than ten minutes.

The most fun character journals were those I wrote to flesh out suzerain Aedan mac Byrne and his seneschal, Jayr. Although these two only make a cameo appearance in Night Lost, they have a lot of history with each other and the Kyn. I was finally able to get them fully realized in their journals, which helped me a lot with writing the synopsis for their novel, Evermore. All eight of these characters are the reason I'm going to be a total self-promo slut today and deem my upcoming May '07 release Night Lost as the eighth very cool book of December.

For a chance to win today's giveaway, in comments to this post name something you do to get to know your characters better (or, if you don't do anything in particular, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on December 12, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner a signed unbound galley copy of Night Lost, an exclusive sneak preview of Evermore, and Talyn by Holly Lisle. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

90 comments:

  1. Cinderberry4:05 AM

    No special trick... We get to know each other as we go.

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  2. Just throwing my name in the hat.

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  3. I have a little profile of them and throughout the day when I notice something, I'll always ask myself what the characters would think about/do in that situation. :)

    -aj

    **crosses fingers**

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  4. My name has been thrown. Thanks.

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  5. I'm just throwing my name in the hat.

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  6. Ow I really want those books! :D

    I used to write character profiles, very detailed, like what drinks they like to drink, what fruits, whether they like bean sprouts or not. Who their love is, who loves them, and all those stuff. Everything clearly denoted in point form. Later I find that it didn't really make me *understand* the character, so I've since jotted down only the forgettable stuff and keep the rest of it in my head. It seems that my characters are more real that way.

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  7. I write drabbles. Dozens of drabbles. I grab prompts from everywhere I can and think: "What would Harold/Jasfoup/Gillian/Lucifer do in this situation?"

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  8. I get in their heads by just mulling them over in mine. I play out scenes and think how they would react. Then when I sit down to write I usually put down some literary goop to get all these things out. As soon as I clean it up a little though, I'm left with great characters.

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  9. I like to write about my characters doing an everyday task -- taking a shower, making a meal, getting dressed, because we're all different in how we do those things.

    Are you tidy when you cook or do you use every pan in the house? When you shower, do you use deodorant soap or foo-foo shower gel? What kind of underwear do you put on -- if any?

    It's amazing how much I can discover about them this way, although after writing it here, I realize that it sounds a little strange...

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  10. I write little silly snippets - conversations with my characters. When they start to complain, deride me and prod me on then I really know them. A written backstory is also important but works more on an abstract level for me.

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  11. Reader here...tossing my name in the hat.

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  12. I already won, so don't throw my name in, PBW! But I think Gabriel is going to be one of my favorite characters of your Kyn so far. The excerpt of Night Lost in Midnight Blues was wonderful!

    For me, I do a lot of backstory work. In first-person character mode, I write about the worst memory s/he has, the worst secret, any huge defining moment that really made this character who s/he is. The more the better. Even if it never makes it into the story, all of the detail adds to the dimension of character. Straight profile/sheets of favorite foods, etc. doesn't really float my boat, although some of that inevitably gets done in the story bible.

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  13. oh gimme....pretty please...

    I used to just plod through but half the time the story either stalled on me or I had to backtrack and rewrite 2/3 of the stupid thing.

    After I came this close to missing a deadline last summer, I decided I needed to get more organized. So far the best thing has been the three questions you've discussed. Who are you? What do you want? What's the worst thing that I can do to you?

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  14. Well, I don't write books or novels, I'm just a PBW fan. :D But I do write in a text-based online RPGer. I'm very much a writing amateur, and I find that my characters just write themselves. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and the nice thing about an RPG is that you can just discard the unwanted character. :P

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  15. Anonymous8:07 AM

    They usually come to me as an image and/or name so I start with that. Then I let them talk and write what they say about whatever they want. I almost always start a story in first person anymore and change if I have to, because it's the best way for me to get to know characters. Just let them out LOL. After I have an idea what they're like I'll go back and fill in a brief character bio sheet. *shrug*
    Jess

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  16. I find that the character usually reveals him or herself to me as I start writing. But I also think about all those questions mentioned in the posts, and do write side stories. It helps me give them a background and have a feeling for their personality. I even sketch a picture of my characters to help make it all the more real. As odd as that sounds, it really adds something to be able to look at a picture of the person your writing about.

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  17. Anonymous8:09 AM

    I'm behind in commenting...family; they are so inconsiderate to cut into my writing time with silly things like doctor appointments and surgery. :>)

    I love characterization. My method varies, but I find no matter how much prep work I do beforehand, I have to write them for while. They tend to reveal stuff to me as I go along I didn't know until it popped out.

    Even if I don't win any of the giveaways, I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments. Thanks, PBW. Fun idea.

    Karen, the lurker

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  18. I'm just throwing my name in the hat.

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  19. Bridget Medora8:20 AM

    I just talk to my characters. It's a pretty slow method of getting to know them though. I might try your journal idea, thanks!

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  20. I'm struggling to find my character's voices. I saw someone talk about writing down fifty little scenes or visualizations for each major character in their book. I'm going to give it a try.

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  21. Hmm.. I cant say I do anything in particular to flesh out my characters. I do the usual profile of hair/eye colour, age, race, motives, loves/fears, goals, and wants. Thats about it really.
    I also study everyone around me and steal their traits.

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  22. Anonymous8:53 AM

    Just throwing my name in the hat, I'm a reader not a writer

    Joanne

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  23. I sometimes have conversations with my characters on paper. Or I brainstorm around them on paper. "Why did he/she do that, maybe..." Also I find that when I really have a hard time getting a grip on a character, the right theme song can make that final "click" happen.

    And I SO am throwing my name in the hat! Night Lost! Evermore! Book lust!

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  24. eliza9:02 AM

    I once had to take a ride on the El to figure out why my hero was taking my heroine on the same route. Suddenly, I understood his motivations and his character just fell together for me. Ever since then, when I can actually get out into the world where my characters are interacting, I do, so that I can get those little insights.

    (For the record, he was trying to quietly impress her. It worked.)

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  25. Throwing my name in the hat!

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  26. I haven't really discovered a particular method that works well for me. I pretty much just discover my character's personality as I go.

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  27. Great post!

    I've been toying with getting journals for my characters, and I think I will for a few of them. I may buy different types of purple pens for them too. Any excuse for more pens, LOL.

    PS Don't put me in the draw. Thanks.

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  28. I am a reader not a writer. Please include me in the draw.

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  29. I never have a grasp of a character until I sketch a little picture of them. It's not the first thing I do, but they're not real to me until I can look them in the face.

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  30. Anonymous9:57 AM

    One title: "Create a Character Clinic". Introduced me to the art of creating proper character sheets, and at that is such a huge improvement on what I was doing before that I'm as happy as a clam. Other "tricks" can wait; I intend to milk this one for all it's worth before moving on.

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  31. The character sketches do seem silly when you actually say it outloud or try to explain it, but they sure do work.

    Pllleease put me in the drawing. I LOVE the Darkyn series!!!

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  32. Here's my name for the hat!

    Pam

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  33. I ask WHY. About everything. Why would you do that? Why do you like that? Why do you want that?

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  34. Not a writer but love books.
    Love free ones even more!

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  35. I'm a reader. Just tossing my name into the hat

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  36. Please throw my name in the proverbial hat. Thank you so much for the giveaways! I love reading all the answers! :)

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  37. Please consider my name thrown in lol.

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  38. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Please put my name in the hat.

    Diane

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  39. I begin by writing a fairly detailed profile of my characer before I let them room in my head for a while. More often than not, they come up with some great character-defining line and I have to scramble to find some paper to write it down. When I'm writing, however, I let my main character take over my head and I let them write it (I return at the end to edit).

    Thanks PBW!
    ~Briana

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  40. Peggy Kurilla10:59 AM

    When I need to get to know a character, I interview him -- but I don't use any of those pre-generated forms you find on websites. I make up the questions to suit the story.

    I start off with one or two break-the-ice questions, move on to how they feel about the other characters, and so on. I don't waste time on things irrelevant to the story.

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  41. Love to enter this draw. Thanks.

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  42. Just tossing my name into the hat

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  43. Please enter me as I am a reader.

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  44. I haven't found the character sheets all that useful, as I'm one who learns about my characters as I write the story. I find them saying or doing something odd, and I just have to find out why, which leads me to find out all kinds of things about them. But I've really liked doing the exercises at Forward Motion for bringing out things in my characters ... what they would do in a certain situation that has nothing to do with my story.

    Oh, and I have to see my characters, too. I'm a big fan of searching actor registries and stock photos until I find my character's picture, which is always exciting. I usually do a little collage of my characters' faces while working on the story.

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  45. I imagine what tv shows or movies they like to see--can often tell me a lot about them : )

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  46. Throwing my name in the hat...

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  47. I've used the journal approach before, but mostly I create character backgrounds. Where they came from and how that formed who they are now.

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  48. I put 'em on the shrink's chair and grill 'em. It's really fun when they try to head shrink me in response.

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  49. GenghisCon1:01 PM

    I like to trap a new character in an elevator and see what happens. I developed this technique after being trapped in an elevator for three hours.

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  50. Interviews sometimes work, as do letters. The Emperor turned quite nasty in a letter to me, actually. I learned a lot about him. Maybe I should get back to his story...

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  51. I've done the dreaded character sheet (you know the one: name, age, sex, dislikes, likes, turn ons, offs, myers brigg type, etc) as well as journaling and even letters (characters writing letters to me to each other and to editors).

    I guess I've tried them all, depending on the book and the characters.

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  52. I've done the dreaded character sheet (you know the one: name, age, sex, dislikes, likes, turn ons, offs, myers brigg type, etc) as well as journaling and even letters (characters writing letters to me to each other and to editors).

    I guess I've tried them all, depending on the book and the characters.

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  53. I've done the dreaded character sheet (you know the one: name, age, sex, dislikes, likes, turn ons, offs, myers brigg type, etc) as well as journaling and even letters (characters writing letters to me to each other and to editors).

    I guess I've tried them all, depending on the book and the characters.

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  54. I've done the dreaded character sheet (you know the one: name, age, sex, dislikes, likes, turn ons, offs, myers brigg type, etc) as well as journaling and even letters (characters writing letters to me to each other and to editors).

    I guess I've tried them all, depending on the book and the characters.

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  55. Anonymous1:21 PM

    I always wanted to try writing character journals, but what I do varies from novel to novel.

    For the nanos, I got by with just writing down character goals/objectives and motivations and trying to plot from actions they were likely to take and not take.

    In other novels, where I had more time, I would make some character histories, with a few significant past events. And this one book, Novelist's Bootcamp, had a neat idea I used. A Character Matrix, which included the character's name, role, objectives, personality points, and antagonists. Handy to keep all that info on one page.

    Cya,
    CC

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  56. GarniGal1:24 PM

    I always wanted to be an actress, so I act out a situation with my characters- emotional reation, physical mannerisms, word choice, that sort of stuff.

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  57. I could not resist entering this one.

    Getting to know my characters depends on the individual character. Some are easy. Some have to be coaxed out of their shells. With Marc, from Stray I had to go directly to the source--I had a chat with his mommy. ;-)

    Consider me entered, please.

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  58. Just throwing my name into the hat.

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  59. Character biographies - I need to know their past, not their favourite food, in order to get a grasp on them. Sometimes that involves freewriting scenes, and some of these even make it into the book.

    With historical characters, it's mostly figuring out matching character traits from contradictory sources.

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  60. Cathy G1:59 PM

    Hi Lynn, I'm just throwing my name in the hat too. Hope I win. I'm CathyG by the way. You can email me at cathygoldman@comcast.net

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  61. LesleyW2:00 PM

    Another name being thrown into the hat. :)

    LesleyW

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  62. Twila2:18 PM

    For me, I sometimes take the Meyers-Briggs test as the character, or write journals as them... It's fun.

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  63. Lleeo2:24 PM

    I like throwing them together with characters who are their complete opposite in values and outlook. It can also make things much more interesting. ^_~

    I also like to sketch out the things they really enjoy doing--such as hobbies, activities, jobs; to find out what they're really motivated towards doing, what'll be on their mind. Then find out what they hate doing and throw that in their path too. ^.^ I learned that one from you, PBW.

    Thanks so much for this opportunity--it's always interesting to see how you craft your stories. I can't wait for Night Lost and I definitely do see a lot of you in Alex. ^_~

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  64. Wow, what a neat ideas here! I esp like yours, Sheila. I wrote a journal entry for the protag of my current WIP and it helped tremundously to get inside her head like that.

    My usual method, however, is by interviewing them. In one interview, my main characters ranted and complained about the things I made happen to them. It was interesting. ;)

    I also visualize a conversation between the character in question and myself. Usually I can get a good sense of voice and how that person reacts to things.

    I also put together little "banners" for each WIP I'm working on for display on various forums I'm on. Usually it involves a pic of the protag, and a tag line. It really helps to put a face to the name, and to get an overall view of the novel as a whole. And it's fun, too!

    Thanks for this opportunity. :)

    Cheers,
    Erin K.

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  65. Hope you have a big hat to hold all of these names. Add mine to the pile.

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  66. One tool I've used is to think of an arguement that the charactor could be involved in and act out the dialoge of how my character would speak and act throughout the conversation. Would they be passive, thoughtful, angry, sarcastic? Just like with people you meet in real life, once you get the charactor talking, you can learn a lot about them in a very short period of time.

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  67. Karen S3:46 PM

    I've often wondered how authors did it, so great question. Please add me to the drawing

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  68. fionaphoenix3:56 PM

    Oooh! Oooh!! Pick me! Pick Me!!
    ...ahem
    Please? :)

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  69. I take them for walks along the beach and steep myself in their attitude. When I return, I can make notes or simply begin writing.

    I wait until I can see each character clearly before diving in.

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  70. I'm just throwing my name in. Big Stardoc fan, also like the Jessica Hall books. :-)

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  71. Please put my name in the draw. Love your blog and have been reading it lately.

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  72. I write short stories about them.

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  73. Martie Starr5:31 PM

    I need to hear their voices,(although I envy writers like you, PBW,for whom scenes unspool visually) so I ask them to come to me, either in a dream or that waking state when stuff comes bubbling up through the seams of your consciousness. (It's a kind of directed meditation, actually.)

    I have enjoyed the Darkyn series and look forward to the upcoming books. Please accept my name in your hat.

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  74. I make my characters tell me what happened in the story from start to finish. It's always interesting what comes out, since everyone has their own take on what happened in the story. It redefines he said/she said. It's also fun to see what the bad guys have to say about the hero/heroine.

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  75. congrats! and I'm throwing my hat in the ring lol.

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  76. Anonymous6:30 PM

    *commences name throwing*

    Thanks !

    EllenO

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  77. Tina S.6:36 PM

    I do a mixture of character profile sheets and simple scenes where the character does an 'everyday' scene: getting dressed in the morning, driving to work, grocery shopping, cooking, etc.

    So far, I've found that and Holly Lisle's Create A Character Clinic works best for me.

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  78. Please enter me in this. Love the blog

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  79. Put my name in for the draw please.

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  80. Just tossing my name in the hat

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  81. I make up a song list off of my itunes. Sometimes it is for a particular character, sometimes it is for the entire work. -

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  82. I am going to toss my name in so that I get a better aim. As for what little writing I do, I generally write about people that I already know up close and personally. Usually it is about my own experiences.

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  83. Just throwing my name in

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  84. Please add my name to the hat. Thank you.

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  85. Another name for that great big hat of yours...JED

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  86. Karen W.10:46 PM

    I don't write, but I'm throwing my hat in the ring. :-) Thanks.

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  87. Anonymous11:45 PM

    Ooooh, NIGHT LOST!!! :)

    Writing...usually type small snips of scenes and that tends to create a character. They can be really random or tell how two people met each other. Then, when I have that first scene, I try to build off of the characters...

    If I do character profiles, they're usually just a quick background story and physical description...

    BTW: NIGHT LOST!!!! WOOHOO! :)

    -jackie

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  88. Ah! Darkyn books! I must have them all!

    by which I mean to say: name in hat

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  89. Anonymous12:06 AM

    Can't wait for your next Darkyn book. Dolores Horton tnek@bellsouth.net

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