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Building Blocks of Stories, Part 2: The Characters

Someone once asked how much of myself was in the characters I’ve created. Most of my characters are truly composites of people I’ve met whose voices I recall and whose actions and reactions I see quite clearly. They pop out of my memory bank and onto the page with relative ease. However, Jesse Bookman, the female scientist in Bear Woman Rising, brought back painful times in my own journey that I would have preferred to forget, if not for her.

My journey into adulthood began with a jolt mere minutes after my college graduation ceremonies came to a close.  While parents and new graduates gathered in the June sunshine to congratulate one another and say goodbye before we left the campus one last time, my father took me aside and imparted these words of wisdom, “Whatever y...

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In some stories, the setting becomes as important as the characters who act out their lives within its parameters. We begin to “see” the story unveil in the context of place. That place may determine what our characters think, and say and do.

In Bear Woman Rising, Jesse describes Whitey’s Road House as a “home to wayfaring strangers”. It is a safe haven for locals to gather and for strangers to feel welcome. As such it provides a backdrop for the proprietor’s wife, Ruth, to discuss her concerns for Kara’s mental stability with Jesse, whom she has just met. And later, we hear Kara tell Jesse, whom she has just met, that left alone in a cabin with blizzard force winds beating at the door, she hears an animal scratching t...

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