How do you choose ages for your characters and how often does that change throughout the writing process?
How do I choose ages for my characters and how often does that change the writing process. I choose my characters... It's really hard to talk about. Because I can really drill down into how I come up with settings, so magic systems and things, and I can talk a lot about how I plot and why I plot. Character is the one that I discovery write. Writers tend to fall somewhere on this spectrum generally between what we call discovery writers and we call outliners, and I'm mostly an outliner. I like a nice tight outline, I like to know where I'm going and what's going on in my world before I start writing. But I found that I have to free write my characters, I have to figure out who they are as I write. Otherwise this outline is going to be too restrictive and I'm going to end up with characters who feel wooden. And I think that's the real risk of outlining too much, is writing the life out of your characters. And so the ages do change, and the personalities change. The famous one is Mistborn, which stars a sixteen year old girl named Vin, she was a boy in the first chapter I tried to write of that. And then that didn't work so I tried a girl with a different personality and that didn't work either. So it was the third try where it's like I'm having people walk in and and try casting calls and seeing who works. And that's generally how I go about it.
With Steelheart the character didn't click for me, and I was really worried about that. Like the prologue worked wonderfully and I wrote the prologue separately, I wrote it years before I went back to the book. Because I just had that prologue pop into my head and I wrote it out. So if you read Steelheart the prologue is like 5,000 words, it's huge, it's like twenty pages or something like that. It may not be that long, but it's a big chunk. It was the first thing that I did, and then I put the book aside. And I was really worried when I started writing that I didn't have a voice for the character, because the prologue takes place ten years before when the main character is a child. So I started writing and it didn't work, and I started writing again and it didn't work, and the thing that ended up working, this is the silliest thing, but it was when I wrote a metaphor that was really bad, a simile, right? And I'm like "Oh that's stupid" because that's what normally happens. That's what you do when you are writing, you come up with something and go "Why did I write that, it's dumb?" and you delete it. And this time I started to delete it and thought "What if I ran with that?" So I started running with it and this character grew out of the fact that he makes bad metaphors. And that's just a simple trope, a simple thing, but it grew into an entire personality. This is a person who is really earnest, trying really, really hard. They are smart, they are putting things together, but they just don't think the same way that everyone else does and they are a little bit befuddled by things. It's like they are trying a little too hard. Ironically-- Or I guess coincidentally, not ironically, the metaphor of writing bad metaphors became what grew into the personality for David. His entire personality grew out of this idea of someone who is trying so hard, and you just love him because he is trying so hard but sometimes he just faceplants. And my children do this. Like I remember my child when he was five years old and he was running toward me so excited, telling me about something and this thing that he had in his hand and there was a pole in front of him but the thing was so important. And he smacked right into and fell right back over just stunned. Like "Who put this pole in front of me?" *laughter* It was at our house, it's not like he didn't know there was a pole there, right? He was just so excited by this thing Dad, this thing! And that was where David came from.