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Joy Ann Ribar Asks Do You Collaborate with Your Main Character?

Joy Ann Ribar is the author of the Deep Lakes cozy mystery series, set in Wisconsin. You can read more about her here, see her books here, and read her last post here.

Knock Knock!  Who’s there?  It’s me, Frankie Champagne from Deep Lakes, Wisconsin. I’m here to get some air time because my co-conspirator/creator, Joy Ann Ribar, shelved me in September and hasn’t given me any attention since.  

Let me qualify that statement.  Joy’s been pounding the pavement with my latest mystery adventure Deep Green Envy since its release in September, so I guess you might say I’ve garnered some attention.  Let’s just say that I’m ready to spring into action for another caper.  My news hound nose is itchy with anticipation, and I can’t wait to see what the season of autumn has waiting for me, the Bubble & Bake shop, and my vineyard.  

I suppose you’re wondering what fictional characters do between books. While some may slumber and others may continue with the day-to-day activities in their normal fictional settings, I wasn’t created with the patience to endure either of those occupations for any length of time.

Instead, I infiltrate Joy’s mind when it’s most vulnerable, buzzing about during her solitary walks and chattering incessantly in her ear amid sleep cycles. What’s a character to do? To be fair, it isn’t my fault she loaded me with curiosity and crafted me smack in the middle of life changes!  

If I were in charge, I’d take more risks, maybe learn martial arts and the bare minimum of how to use a gun. I’ve stuffed that into Joy’s suggestion box along with adding a wine tasting room out at the vineyard, maybe attending a wine convention where someone is murdered. Oh, I’d also like to delve into my family history, so maybe a trip to Ireland or Denmark is in order.  Believe me, there are buried secrets to be discovered. 

Okay Frankie, time for you to retreat to the background again: Joy is back and ready to wrap up today’s musings.  How many of you give air time to your characters?  Truthfully, I find myself listening in to conversations between my characters, allowing them a chance to speak without my interference. Sometimes I believe I am their medium between their fictional otherworld, my imagination, and my readers’ reality. 

Everywhere I go to connect with readers, I receive plenty of questions and suggestions for plot and characters. Time and again, my readers have voiced their opinions and desires about character relationships.  Shouldn’t Sheriff  Alonzo Goodman get a shot with Frankie?  Will antagonist Donovan Pflug turn into a love interest for Frankie? When will Frankie walk down the aisle with her romantic interest, Garrett the coroner?

Checking to be sure I sound somewhat sane, I honestly tell my readers that I have to check with Frankie and the other characters first.  I remind them that relationships take time to grow and evolve, just like in real life. And Frankie, who’s been a single mom raising daughters for years, might not want to dive into marriage after being burned or might just want to discover herself untethered from children and personal commitment. 

Bottom line: there’s so many avenues and rabbit holes for Frankie to explore.  Plot ideas keep coming, sometimes in spurts, sometimes in dribbles, but rest assured, I won’t be expecting Frankie to take a long winter’s nap anytime soon.

Joy Ribar

Joy Ann Ribar writes the Deep Lakes Cozy Mystery series, inspired by Wisconsin’s four seasons and friendly quirks. You can find out more about her on her website joyribar.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter, or follow her on Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Jacqueline VIck

    You’re right. There are so many options to think about when writing a character! Looking forward to watching Frankie Champagne’s life unfold in the next book.

    1. joyribar

      Thanks, Jackie! I’m enjoying your own Frankie character in Arizona.

  2. Laurie Buchanan

    Joy — ALL of the possibilities you listed are wonderful, and I can hardly wait to read Frankie’s next adventure!

    As an aside, like you, my characters whisper in my ear when I sleep. I keep a tablet and pen on my nightstand to capture their suggestions.

    1. joyribar

      Pen and paper: A writer’s best friends, indeed, especially helpful when we can’t turn off the brain.

  3. saralynrichard

    What a fun post! Since I’m also a Frankie fan, I’m eager to watch her next adventures evolve. I understand Frankie’s whispering in your ear. That’s one of the joys of writing–you are never alone or lonely. Your characters stay with you forever.

    1. joyribar

      So true -the never alone or lonely part. It’s quite comforting when you put it this way, Saralyn!

  4. Christine DeSmet

    Letting ourselves feel the “realness” of our characters is one great thing about writing. I usually depend on them to tell me what to write or how to change a plot direction. The characters are real for us authors, and it’s wonderful magic when readers experience that, too.

    1. joyribar

      That is so true, Christine. It’s great to know that you listen to your characters to help guide your plot. We are truly living in two worlds, and loving it.

  5. Sheila Lowe

    That was wonderfully whimsical and a good reminder to listen when our character speak. If we don’t get into their heads, the result will be cardboard.

    1. joyribar

      I love your reference to cardboard, Sheila. How apt!

  6. Sherrill Joseph

    Joy, I loved your approach where Frankie “took over” the blog at the beginning. I, too, wonder what’s going on with my characters when I leave them for awhile. But like Frankie, they soon infiltrate my space, especially my dreams. And when I rejoin them, they become real as I zone out and enter their worlds and heads. This makes it easier for me to authentically transpose their dialogues and take the plot where they want it to go. Thanks for the fun post! (And no, the sheriff shouldn’t have a shot at Frankie; I think Garrett’s a better match. But yes, Frankie needs more time to discover herself before settling down, imho!)

    1. joyribar

      Thank you for the moral support, Sherrill, says Frankie.

  7. I enjoyed your post, Joy! My sister and I were talking about my characters earlier today like they were members of the family! It’s important for us to stay connected with our characters between books. They’re the ones who tell us where the next story needs to go. Thanks for spotlighting the process.

    1. joyribar

      Thank you for reading, Margaret. My sister and me discuss the characters often, too. Funny how that happens, but very cool.

  8. Sharon Lynn

    What a fun blog post, Joy! I feel like I know Frankie, so it was fun to hear from her.
    I once read something by Stephen King who said he intended to have his main characters die in Salem’s Lot, but once he got writing, they took over and saved themselves.
    Listen to your characters – they know stuff.

    1. joyribar

      Thanks for sharing the Stephen King story. I love it! It takes strong characters to convince stubborn authors. That is the challenge – to write characters who are that convincing!

  9. Tracey Phillips

    I know exactly what you mean! My characters speak to me in my dreams too. They wake me up in early hours telling me what’s new. They drag me to the computer before sunup to talk to them. But it never occurred to me to wonder what they’re doing when I’m not around! What a fun and light-hearted post! And a great reminder to keep up the communication with your characters.

  10. joyribar

    Thanks, Tracey. I like to have fun with my characters and giving them authentic voices is always a creative challenge.

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