Writer at Work by Tara Randel

If you’ve ever been in a public place, watching people and coming up with characteristics from the people you observe that are a perfect fit for future characters in a book…you might be a writer.

As an author, I’ve found an interesting aspect of creating characters is to watch people. Where ever I go, I observe what people do, how they do it, what they say and how they say it. I can be at the mall, at a sporting event, even in church, and pick up tidbits that help shape my characters or story to some degree.

Creating characters in not easy. With each character, I must determine their inner struggles and how those struggles impact the story line. I go so far as using a character check list, not only to flesh out the inner conflict, but to detail physical attributes. Names sometimes pop into my head as I create a character, or the name comes to me and from there I draw the character sketch. Kind of a which came first scenario, the chicken or the egg? And depending on the type of book I may be writing, I search for names for their specific meaning to the story line.


Once I have the characters and story established, I gather nuances from life around me. For example, I plotted my 2013 Harlequin Heartwarming release, Orange Blossom Brides, while attending a bridal fashion show. As I wrote the book, I remembered the conversation going on around me, room decorations, what the models wore and the time of year. Little bits of this added creative touches to my story. Also, remembering the details gave my imagination a jumping off point. From there, anything is possible.

Inspiration comes to writers in a myriad of places. I once named a character Ruby Sue after the cool name of a friend’s cat. I watched a Civil War reenactment and listened to the crowd for color commentary in a scene I later used in a book. Even when my writer friends and I meet for coffee, and ultimately start discussing our works in process, people wonder if our characters are real live people. And please, don’t discuss how to commit a literary crime because that raises a few eyebrows.

I bring a notebook with me everywhere I go so I can jot down impressions or take notes. Just recently, I went for a helicopter ride. I had to take notes because, hey, I may have a character who travels in a helicopter. My husband humors this behavior because he’s grown used to my note taking. Anywhere I go I can find something that will enrich my story.

There is a big world out there and so much of it can be used in conjunction with my imagination. That is the fun part of writing. Not only does life imitate art, but every day experiences create a treasure trove for writers. Even if you aren’t an author, who hasn’t sat on a park bench and watched the world around them? God made humans to be very diverse, interesting and multifaceted. Observing human nature is very compelling, and I get to do it in the name of research.

Kind of makes you want to take up writing just to be a student of human nature. Or read a book and see the world as your favorite author sees it. Either way, people watching is lots of fun.

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1 Response to Writer at Work by Tara Randel

  1. Maureen Lang says:

    It’s always so fun to see how other writers work, Tara! Especially those areas that we all seem to have in common – carrying a notebook (or looking for something to record a thought/observation if we don’t have it handy), raising a brow or two from others who aren’t writers (even from our hubbys!), finding inspiration just about every and any where. Thanks for the reminder that although we may not be “normal” in some ways, we’re a lot more normal when we share our habits other writers.


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