Hi again, gang. Craig here today and I’m going to talk about my new book, The Hat. I’ll use it to discuss one of the best parts of being a writer. Here is a cover and blurb to give you an idea of what it’s all about. Then we’re going to talk about discovering our characters during the first draft.
Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.
She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.
Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.
Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.
Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon.
So, yeah, I want you to pick up a copy and consider leaving a review. Just click on the cover image. This is Story Empire though, so we’re going to go into characters.
I occasionally read about an author discovering his or her characters while writing the first draft. This is one of the truly magical things that happens when we write fiction. We all start out with an idea of plot, and what the characters have to do to make things happen. Character kind of develops while we write. At least it does for me.
I knew Lizzie was a college dropout. I knew The Hat was a being from another dimension. That’s where the first draft started. Lizzie prompted me to figure out how a college dropout, and a girl to boot, might be living when the story opens. I have adult children, so I know a thing or two about how tough that age can be. My own kids have been through the unreliable roommate issues, just like Lizzie.
Lizzie immediately had struggles. Then I had to figure out how she would deal with those struggles. Turns out she tackles life head on. Go Lizzie.
The Hat has been here forever, well, since the days of the Greek City States. He’s kind of seen it all, including humanity at its worst. He’s not immune to feelings either, and he took up music as a way to escape.
Take those two individuals, lock them in a small space together and let them figure it out. I got some good notes by just daydreaming about their interactions. Both characters grew. Somehow, instead of working together, they had to become one to get to the end of the story. This led me to an interesting symbiosis. The hat can manipulate Lizzie’s body, but only if she lets him. This leads to some tension and stress.
The music made a return in an odd way. The hat doesn’t just listen to music, he plays it too on an upright bass. He cannot play the bass without Lizzie giving in and letting him use her arms and fingers. This led to some pretty fun moments between them.
This led me to asking what else they might do. The hat developed a few more shape shifting skills, including one with some sharp teeth. He also has the ability to track people by feeling, providing there’s been a prior contact of some kind. Eventually he developed the ability to even torture and brainwash others. You can’t have a paranormal story without a few scary things in it.
Lizzie is not someone he controls. She is her own person throughout the story. She may take cues from the hat, but he doesn’t have power over her. She teaches him a thing or two about the internet and the modern world.
Meeting and learning about characters in the first draft is my favorite part of writing. It’s amazing how they take over and expand their own possibilities. While they are blossoming on the page, they are also building fences at the same time. These fences establish things they would never do, or limits to what they might know. Good fences make for good characters.
The fences are just as important as the rest is, and don’t take it to mean there are limitations on the story. The story is pretty crazy, and Lizzie and The Hat are both strong personalities. Fences means the establishment of things that would be out of character, or beliefs that make them who they are.
So how about you guys? Do you make sheets and character diagrams prior to writing, or do they surprise you like they do me? I’d love to hear from you on this.