Characters, and Still Testing WPS Office

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Still Testing WPS Office
* Where Do My Characters Come From?
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“We fluff them and fold them and nudge them and enhance them and bind them and break them and embellish them beyond measure; then, as we drive them up to the college interviews that they’ve heard since birth are the gateway to the lives they were destined to lead based on nothing more than our own need for it to be true, we tell them, with a smile so tight it would crack nuts, ‘Just be yourself.'” Heather Choate Davis

Still Testing WPS Office

I had hoped to offer my opinion of WPS Office today, but it will have to wait. I did write a little yesterday, but I also went down a few rabbit holes while doing some “quick” research. (grin) By the time I surfaced, my writing time had all but evaporated.

As a result, I didn’t get much more done on the story. I’ll fold the few hundred words I did get done into today’s writing. With any luck I’ll have a review of WPS Office for you tomorrow.

I will stick my neck out and say it’s looking pretty good as a successor to Microsoft Office 365, at least in my computer.

Where Do My Characters Come From?

Back in the day when I presented sessions on writing at a lot of different writers’ conferences, sometimes I also took part in panel discussions. (Most writers didn’t like sitting on panels, but it was understood to be an unspoken requirement if you wanted to be invited back.)

To form a panel, several presenters would sit behind a long table on a stage or at the front of a large room. The audience members would be parked in chairs on the floor, and the panel members would field questions from the audience.

Over on Vin Zandri’s YouTube channel today, he’s answering the question “How Do You Come Up With Your Characters?” To hear his response, click here.

As Vin indicated has been the case with him, after “Where do you get your ideas?” the most often asked question of the panels I was on was “How do you come up with your characters?” or the alternative, “Where do your characters come from?”

The question was always directed to “the whole panel” instead of a particular member, and most of the writers on the panel would respond.

So hoping Vin won’t mind, today he and I are on a panel together and answering the question. Please listen to Vin’s reponse at the link above.

If he were also on the panel, I suspect Harlan Ellison would have said he gets his characters from the same place he gets his ideas: “I get ’em from a little shop in Schenectady.”

My own response?

Most of the time, my characters just pop into my head, usually while delivering a line of dialogue. For example, on our way back from a trip to Tucson one time, I burst out laughing.

My wife looked at me. “What’s going on?”

“A Brooklyn character just popped into my head. A wise guy. You don’t want to know.”

But she did want to know.

Still chuckling, I told her. “The guy’s fully formed, big, looks like something out of a Godfather movie. His name is Joe ‘Joey Bones’ Salerno. He just pointed at someone off-camera in my head and said, ‘Oh, I didn’ tell you? Must’a been none’a your f***in’ business.'”

Later, Joey Bones starred in several short stories and a novella. Oddly enough, he never uttered that line in a story as far as I can remember.

In another of hundreds of similar occurrences, I “saw” a lean 1880s Texas Ranger crouching at the edge of a small campfire in a wooded area. His name was Wes Crowley.

As I watched, he leaned forward and poked at an ember that had popped out of the campfire a moment earlier. “Been a long trail this time, boys.” His attention fixed on the ember, he worked the tip of the stick under the edge nearest him, then flipped it backward into the fire. A few sparks released. “Sure lookin’ forward to gettin’ back.” He looked up, a tired, easy grin on his face. “What about you, Mac?”

And my first novel was off and running.

Sometimes, as Vin mentions, the characters that occur to me are bits of “real” people I’ve met. Other times they might be bits of characters I’ve met in other books or in films. But I don’t choose them or concoct them. They always take the first step and introduce themselves.

Even when I’m performing that “story starter” idea of a character with a problem in a setting, I wait a few seconds and a character pops into my head. Sometimes saying something, sometimes doing something. But he or she always comes to me. I don’t have to go looking or construct anything.

I consider the characters as real (or moreso) than most humans. After all, even when you’ve been acquainted with a flesh-and-blood human being for years or even decades, you still don’t really know him or her. I know most of my characters almost intimately. But just like “real” humans, my characters still occasionally reveal something I didn’t know.

Often the new information surprises me, and not always pleasantly. Like Wes’ Ranger contemporary who revealed, as he lay dying, that years before he joined the Rangers he was an outlaw who had escaped jail. (Yes, I let him tell that story right in the middle of a Crowley Saga novel.)

I believe my characters actually exist somewhere, maybe in a different dimension or whatever. The location doesn’t really matter. And when I access my creative subconscious it enables me to open a door or draw aside a curtain and look in on whatever story they’re living at the time.

Usually they invite me to drop into the story and run through it with them. Then I just write what happens as it happens and what the characters say and do in response. Easy peasy.

The belief that the characters exist somewhere enables me to remember what I’m putting on the screen is THEIR story, not mine.

In my story, I’m sitting at a laptop, my fingers busily moving over the keyboard. In THEIR story, they (and I when they invite me along) are experiencing places I’ll never physically go and events I’ll never physically experience.

And wow am I grateful they let me come along!

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Advertising and Building Fans” at

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1110

Writing of Blackwell Ops 9: Cameron Stance
Brought forward………………………… 4087

Day 1…… 1595 words. To date…… 5682
Day 2…… 2101 words. To date…… 7783
Day 3…… 2573 words. To date…… 10356
Day 4…… 1588 words. To date…… 11944
Day 5…… 2135 words. To date…… 14079

Fiction for August……………………… 20595
Fiction for 2023………………………… 135142
Fiction since August 1………………… 20595
Nonfiction for August…………………… 15580
Nonfiction for the year……………… 165480
Annual consumable words………… 300622

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 2
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)… 221
Short story collections…………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.