I’m a highly organized person, though there are those who may have been in my home that might think otherwise. But seriously, I can’t think straight without a roadmap of some sort to guide me along, especially when it comes to writing. Before I scribble the first line of a story, I have to create my characters.
My main character from The Willow and the Stone is Carli Dixon. Like most of my characters, she is based loosely on a facet of myself, at least emotionally. Like the younger me (as in 25 years ago when I first committed this character to paper), Carli is terrified of many things: death, taking responsibility for herself, trusting in her own abilities. Now while I have never had the dubious luxury of depending on others to take care of me and coddle my insecurities, Carli has found someone who will. So Carli is pretty much me if I’d ever had someone willing to shoulder all my welfare – dependent, frightened, and not much of a survivor. Fortunately, she does have some sterner stuff inside her, an inner strength that comes out when the chips are down.
I knew this was the core of the character when I first began to put her together. But there was a lot more I had to figure out before I could unleash her on her adventure. So here’s the list I used to put her together, both mentally and physically:
Past Event that Had the Most Influence on the Person She Became
These items helped me paint a picture of the character. By doing this right away, I would know how she would move and act and feel in the situations she was placed in. I would be less likely to make her act ‘out of character’.
So by using the items in my list, here are the building blocks that resulted in Carli Dixon:
Shortcomings: This was pretty obvious right off the bat. Carli starts off essentially as a coward. She lets her companion Renee run the show even when she knows she’d be better off in charge. Her overwhelming fear of death rules her.
Special attribute: Carli possesses a sixth sense that allows her to see the future and communicate telepathically with her long-distance friend, Leo Black Elk.
Motive: To survive in an alien-infested world.
Past Event that Had the Most Influence on the Person She Became: Carli had two major events in her childhood. The first was foreseeing the death of her older brother. When no one believed her warnings, he was killed. The second event was the death of her beloved grandmother. When Carli could discern no hint that the soul of her devout grandparent continued in any way, she suffered a loss of faith and became obsessively terrified of death.
Strengths: Despite a seemingly wimpy surface, Carli can get tough and stand her ground when she needs to. As the ‘willow’ in The Willow and the Stone, she bends but she does not break. She is a survivor and ultimately a badass in spite of herself.
Height/weight: Something that usually puts Carli at a disadvantage is her very small stature. She is often misidentified by strangers as a child. This only exacerbates her self-perception as helpless and weak.
Hair: Blond and very long. When you’re being threatened by bloodsucking aliens at every turn, you don’t get to the salon too often.
Eyes: Big and blue
Features: Again, this is a part of her that makes her and others identify her as weak. She has the face of a delicate china doll. She’s extremely pretty and seemingly fragile.
Birthplace: The mountains of North Carolina.
Age: Late 20’s.
So this is the snapshot of Carli that I ended up with. She became my very reluctant heroine, a person that grew to reach her potential by the end of the story. Along her journey, she displayed moments of strength that hinted to who she could be, if she’d only have a little faith in herself. It was a fun evolution to write.