Over at io9.com earlier today, horror novelist Joe Hill — author of my all-time favorite novel, Horns — participated in a digital Q&A. Fortunately, I finally got the chance to ask Hill the very question that’s been burning in my mind for over a year now:
Hey there! Thanks for the great questions guys. So I guess I’ll just quote your questions, and see what I have (if anything) for answers. First up, from Alex J. Kane:
Q: “What I’d love to know is: How do you develop your characters? Do you write extensive sketches in place of a plot outline? Or do you craft them as you draft the story? I’d love to know where these folks came from.”
A: For the most part, I just sort of feel my way along. Every day, when I sit down to work, I hope I’m going to learn something new about one of my characters: what music they like, how they feel about their mother, what turns them on, what they won’t tolerate. Developing an extensive character sketch ahead of time would rob me of the most enjoyable part of the process.
At the same time, this is also the most challenging part of working on a story, and can lead to setbacks. In all three novels – HEART-SHAPED BOX, HORNS, and the new (unpublished) one – I wound up writing lots of material about certain characters, trying to find the right sound to their voice, struggling to find their emotional center. And most of that material never makes it into the book. I had to write it, for myself, but it isn’t inherently interesting to the reader.