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the crazy quilt method

So in our interview, Deborah Bouziden asked a key question. My answer is short, because it’s not going to work for every writer.
DB: When creating your characters, how do you choose traits, personality, etc.? Are your characters given your traits, friends, relatives, or are they formed from observation? What traits must main characters have?

Crazy Quilt Rendered by harlotte Winter, c. 1938 from National Gallery of Art
Crazy Quilt Rendered by Charlotte Winter, c. 1938 from National Gallery of Art

My characters come together like pieces of a crazy quilt. I pull together colorful bits and pieces (traits, issues, background) and assemble them into a person-like creation. The bits and pieces come from people I know, but once they’re assembled, they’re an original creation. At the outset, I focus a lot on the character’s history and the defining moments in her past that motivate her emotions and actions in the story. There are no consistent “must-have” traits for me other than being fascinating! I love the endless variety in people–and in characters.

Who are some of your favorite, most unforgettable characters in fiction?

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