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  • Mj Pettengill

From the Author's Pen: Character Development


Dance Hall: Fall River, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine.
Dance Hall: Fall River, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine.

Question What is your process for character development? Answer My work is character-driven, and my historical fiction series is in narrative form. I maintain detailed records of their physical traits, tendencies, and important dates and events. I have created family trees for my reference.

A basic outline serves as the bones of the stories. However, it serves as a guideline; it is not binding. I have changed my mind a few times about who gets a voice and who does not. I allow room for the characters to lead the way, opening doors that may not have remained closed if I was rigid about sticking to the outline and not the possibilities. I'm aware of the downside of limiting character development to "stick to the plan." Be mindful of what may emerge. Trust yourself, and trust your characters.


I also have a clear image of them in my head. I may not write about every aspect, but I know what they like or dislike. It helps me to connect with them. Learn all you can about the era, demographics, and deeper storylines. Do your research. Good, believable characters are multi-dimensional. If you believe in them, your readers will. Authenticity speaks and will be accessible if you inhabit your characters. Get in their heads and pay attention. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Do you have a question about the writing process, the stories, historical references? Please reach out via the contact page. I'm happy to have a discussion. Mj Pettengill