Characters & Settings: Why Do We Choose Them?

What comes to your mind first, when you think of your character? A physical appearance? Their habits? Their voices or the manner they speak in? How do you create an environment for them? How do you assign them to a lifestyle they have, their professions, their wishes, aspirations and challenges they encounter as their story develops in the book?   

When I was writing my debut novel Friday Evening, Eight O’Clock, I didn’t have a whole, completed plot formed in my head, I knew several things, and very slowly moved those tiny details around. I knew however, that the main protagonist Tasha, a freelance journalist would move to Paris, and so Paris was the setting chosen as one of the major element of the novel. That’s probably when the autobiographical part comes in. I too lived and studied there in my 20ies and travelled to that beautiful city several times since, and probably I wanted her, Tasha, to go through that  experience just like me, a transformative point for her, her journey to self discovery, to her getting in tune with her dreams, and goals and obstacles she encountered on the way.  I too, together with both of my main female characters Tasha and Liz, hurried to the office, or wandered around the city,  sat in cafes or dined out in restaurants, went to the places I used to go many years ago.

So, yes, in a way, for me, it was a travel back in time with the help of the book characters, reviving those memories, and to a tiny extent bringing them to the book, to their lives, to their stories. I hope, that in a way, apart from inventing the characters and plot lines and dialogues, our own experiences intentionally or otherwise might make the stories we tell believable and our characters reliable.  I often think and wonder where the sparkle for a narrative we choose comes from and why and how we decide on and select the settings for the novels we’re writing? Maybe from the places we were most happy? The place that had a profound impact on our lives afterwards?

What do you think? 

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