This is an example of one of the ways I think up characters:
Me: (recording poems for my audiobook)
Icharus: I want to be a character now.
Me: But you already are.
Icharus: In a book.
Icharus: I want to be in a book. I didn’t die when I fell. And I love Orpheus.
Me: You do? Ok just hang on a–
Icharus: And I want my book to be like every James Baldwin novel but with more sex.
Me: I don’t know if I can be that brutal.
Icharus: And it’s going to be a trilogy.
Me: Well you’ll have to get in line behind Regina, all the Echos, Helen, and everybody else.
Icharus: Did I mention I love Orpheus? And maybe one of the gods too. Apollo could be very metaphorical.
Me: Take a number and get in line!
Icharus: I really, really want a book-trilogy.
Me: You’ll get one just shut up and let me work!
Icharus: I don’t trust you.
Me: It’ll happen! You’re in the queue. I promise!
Icharus: You’re going to have to do a lot of research. Geography is really important.
Me: I know!
Icharus: …maybe Achilles…
Me: Don’t push it.
And on and on it went and that is how I made the decision to eventually write a gay romance. A character popped into my head that wouldn’t shut up. But really this character has been in my head since 2012 and didn’t find his voice until day before yesterday. Before that he was a shadowy idea floating around in my brain meat.
It happened during a writing exercise I did back in grad school (see how long ago). The exercise was to look at a book cover and write the synopsis on the back. No influence from the real synopsis or any other information from the book. Just write something based off the cover. You should try it, it’s super fun.
When I read my little blurb the girl sitting at the table directly across from me lit up with a smile and after class she told me I had to write that character, that his voice was so clear to her.
At the time I wasn’t writing fiction but I thought she was super nice to say so, so I put the suggestion away and now almost 7, count em, 7 years later here’s that voice again.
But this time I am writing fiction and I don’t want to tell him to go away. So I guess I’m adding another project to my publication schedule.
How do your characters come to you?
Or, if you’re a poet, how do poems happen?