When Characters Come A’Knockin’… Are you at Home?

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Characters1By Trisha Sugarek

I’m certain that there are writers out there that do a thorough story plot, get all their characters in a neat little row, and know how their story is going to end. And that’s all before they write a word of their tale.

I would probably frighten some. I just sit down and start typing. Yes, the story has been bubbling in my head for days. There comes a point where I have to empty it, before smoke seeps out of my ears. Many of my chapters are not numbered, because I don’t know yet exactly where they will fit. I write out of sequence.
And, much to my eternal delight (and gratitude), characters just keep showing up. Many of them, I never plan. When they make their appearance, I have to shape the story around them… because once they show up, they are NOT leaving! 

For instance, in Beneath the Bridge of Murder, which I am currently writing, murder cops O’Roarke and Garcia are down on the docks in Manhattan. A call has come in from the NYPD Marine Patrol, who pulled out another dead body from the river. As they walk toward the ME and cops gathered around the scene, a young, pretty, uniformed officer steps out of her patrol car. Molly wasn’t planned, and now she will be an intricate part of this mystery and will appear in future books. (I can’t tell you more, right now!)

In The Taste of Murder, Arnold Miller (Broadway star and key character in The Act of Murder) walks off the elevator that O’Roarke and Garcia, NYPD, are waiting for in the Food Network Building in Lower Manhattan. What’s he doing in this story? I wasn’t even thinking about this story; he simply walked off the elevator and into my story.

With The Angel of Murder, Vito Vandellino, PI appeared on the page and began tromping all over O’Roarke’s case. Where the heck did this guy come from? These are strictly cop/true crime stories. But Vito is hired to try to find an affluent couple’s missing daughter and I’d better go along with it. Now, he’s back with his nephew in Beneath the Bridge…

My aunt La Verne tapped me on the shoulder one night while writing something else and said, “Okay, you’ve written your mother’s story but why aren’t you writing mine? It’s far more interesting; full of adventure and danger and love.”  Well, it was a good question. I barely knew her as she lived most of her life in the wilds of Alaska in the 1920s. One of my projects is writing my ‘epic’ about her life. It’s still not finished… other stories keep getting in the way. I will finish it, just not yet. (And writers: that’s okay to let a story ‘rest’. It will still be there when you want it.)

And then we come to the Effervescent Elf, Cheets. He put his over-sized feet on my back one night around 3AM. Insisted that I write about him, pushed me out of bed. By the time I had made my cup of tea, Cheets had given me the other characters’ names and we were on our way. Now, keep in mind, I was NOT a children’s story writer. What was happening? Now, four plays and four storybooks later… well, I guess I am a fairytale storyteller. Lord knows, I love me some fairy tales.Characters2


Learn more about our interviewer at: Trisha Sugarek

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