Setting your characters free – Ashley Farley

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By Ashley Farley

Readers ask me all the time where I get inspiration for my characters. When I start a new project, I create a character, toss her (because most of my protagonists are women) into a crisis situation, and let her come to life on the page.

I usually have a general idea of her nature and disposition in the beginning, but for the most part, her character develops as she faces her challenge. Developing characters is like parenting. Give them guidance, and then set them free and let them be. But be sure to stick around. They’ll need you to lift them up when they fall.

For me, the first draft of a novel is the getting-to-know-you stage. I become better acquainted not only with my characters but also with their circumstances. Much comes to light during the first draft, but the second draft is where the novel really takes shape. Being better able to relate to my characters allows me to polish their dialogues and elaborate on their thoughts.

This has been true of all my leading ladies thus far. To a certain extent, each of them is part of me. Even though they’re all so different. According to my readers, they see something of themselves in one, if not all three, of the sisters in my popular Sweeney Sister Series. For me, the fun part of being a writer is getting to choose which hat I want to wear on any given day.

Lula Horne, star of my latest release, Sweet Tea Tuesdays, came to life in a different way. I knew exactly the type of character I was creating when I wrote the first chapter. She’s old-fashioned, close-minded, and opinionated with an enormous heart. She’s misunderstood and misguided, and I think readers will identify with her because she is so flawed, and they will feel sorry for her not only because of her circumstances but because she’s her own worst enemy.

Lula means well. She just gets it wrong so much of the time. But when she gets it right, she really gets it right. She faces a lot of obstacles in Sweet Tea Tuesdays, and she has to rely on her family and friends to see her through. I won’t spoil the suspense for you, but by book’s end, I predict she will have stolen your heart.

Writers, if you’re having trouble getting to know your leading lady, take her shopping for shoes. You can learn a lot about a woman based on the shoes she wears.


Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. Her novel, Sweet Tea Tuesdays, is out now.

ashleyfarley.net

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