Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crazy Uncle Henry: Getting to Know Your Characters

The debate goes on: which came first, the characters or the story? This of course depends on what kind of writer you are. Do you come across a stellar story idea and plot until Agatha Christie would be jealous, or do you meet someone (in reality, in a dream, etc) and suddenly realize, they have one heck of a story to tell?

I lean to the latter, or a combination, but have done both. Regardless of the method, one thing is obvious early on: there is no story without heartrending, bizarre, loveable, or otherwise stellar characters. In that vein I’m getting to know one of mine—one who is taking me by surprise, and I'd like to bring you along for the journey. Meet Crazy Uncle Henry.

Me: Say Hello Henry.

Henry: (stares squinty-eyed at me)

Me: I hear you are as diabolical as you are talented.

Henry: Who sent you here?

Me: (clearing throat) Says here you live in Lakeland, Florida, on an island, in the middle of a lake. How may I ask, did you come to own this particular piece of property? And why would you wish to live so far from civilization?

Henry: You don’t have any chocolate chip cookies, do you? The milk chocolate kind?

Me: No, Henry.

Henry: Oh good. Proceed then.

Me: You don’t like cookies?

Henry: Nasty things. Did you know on New Years Eve in 1984, the Toll House Inn—original birth place of the chocolate chip cookie, burned down? Mischievous things. And Massachusetts had the audacity to name the chocolate chip cookie its state cookie! Disaster, heart attacks, and coconuts thefts. All because of that *3$^ cookie!

Me: Interesting.

Henry: But I suppose they are no worse than the lizards.

Me: The lizards?

Henry: Well yes. That’s why I went into hiding. They never leave the coconuts alone!

Me: Wow. So, tell me, do you have any family?

Henry: (giving me a suspicious frown) Why?

Me: Because people have family…usually.

Henry: Posh. Electric charge, now that’s something everyone has. Static, I believe you call it. Build up enough of that and you could permanently damage your optic nerves. Quite unsafe I tell you, all this “static”.

Me: I’ll have to keep that in mind. I hear you made your fortune at a very young age. Would you like to tell us about that?

Henry: I am a scientist, madam. My work is for my-eyes-only.

Me: Sorry for prying.

Henry: Rightly so.

Me: Is there anything you would like to tell our readers, Henry?

Henry: Never wear rubber shoes.

Me: Okay. Thank you. That concludes our…one and a half minutes. Now um, security?


  1. Hi, and thanks for stopping by Science Fiction Mommy. I typically come up with the story idea first, and the characters evolve as the story does. Can't say I've ever interviewed one though. Could be an interesting experience.

    I liked your previous post about getting stuck partway through--and that was a great quote. I certainly know the feeling.

    Your profile mentioned Les Miserables as a favorite book. I slogged through an unabridged version in high school (for pleasure) because I love the musical so much--bits of it bored me to hypnosis, but there are some great parts in there.

    Seems like you've got a great website and blog here, I'll be stopping by from time to time--and you're always welcome at Science Ficiton Mommy!

  2. Thanks Eileen!

    Les Miserables--I read the abridged abridged version (in high school as well), and this after building up my endurance with Dickens and Shakespeare. It still took me 3 months to get through, but the musical pales in comparison. I've never been on such a high after finishing a book! Guess that goes to show the power of the written word.

  3. Aw, I love Uncle Henry! That was funny.

  4. My characters came first. Then, knowing their lives, I just plopped them down into an interesting episode of it.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and following. You, also, have a lovely blog, Roland

  5. I totally understand. Sometimes it's like--agh! Get out of my head! Especially when they decide to become second consciences!


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