Monday, July 2, 2007

Nancy Pickard

Writer Julia Spencer-Fleming interviewed Nancy Pickard about her Agatha Award-winning novel, The Virgin of Small Plains.

One exchange from their dialogue:

The Virgin of Small Plains seems to spring first and foremost from its powerfully realistic characters. What's your process for developing and working with characters?

(Thank you!) Well, the weird thing is that I think my process is changing. It used to be that I didn't really want to *think* about my characters very much. For instance, I never wanted to make lists of where they went to school, what their favorite colors were, or those kinds of things. I wanted them to reveal things like that to me in the course of the story, which they would do only if they needed and wanted to do it. I didn't care what flavor of ice cream Jenny Cain liked best -- unless she needed to reveal that to me as I wrote. I thought of creating characters in the same way that I thought about making friends -- I would never hand you, for instance, a questionnaire demanding to know your hobbies. I would wait for that to come up naturally in conversation. Or, if you were coming over to my house and I was serving ice cream, I'd ask so I could be sure to have a flavor you like.

Now, however, although that still remains mostly true, I find that I'm wanting to *think* more about them. When something happens in a story, I don't just wait for them to do what they do -- I think about how they'd be reacting to it, and what their options might be, and what effect that might have on the people around them. And I'm finding that this is deepening my feeling for them.

I guess maybe previously I was scared of destroying my creative flow by getting analytical, and maybe I was right about that -- maybe it would have had a bad effect. But I have more experience now, and more confidence in my own skill, I guess. Previously, maybe I had more confidence in my characters than I did in myself.
Read the entire interview.

The Page 69 Test: The Virgin of Small Plains.

--Marshal Zeringue