Monday, December 17, 2012

On the Casting Couch with Mona Ingram

Over the next few months a number of writers have agreed to sit on my Casting Couch to discuss the different methods  they use in their search for the characters who populate their books. Their techniques give a fascinating insight into the writing process and the writers themselves
Today Avalon author Mona Ingram joins us on the Casting Couch to share the tricks of her trade and to tell why she likes the secondary characters in her books as well.
Thank you for agreeing to sit on the Casting Couch Mona. It’s always a treat to talk to a multi-published author and discover how she casts her characters. Assuming you are sitting comfortably, let’s begin.
* * *

Which characters are the hardest for you to develop? Is it the hero, the heroine, the villain, or the secondary characters?
I’d have to say the heroine. I think that’s because I usually identify with the heroine and although on a deep level I understand her motivation, I don’t like to talk about myself.
When an idea strikes, do you work through the plot first and then cast the characters, or is it characters first? Or does it vary? Perhaps you develop the plot and the characters together.
I wish I could say I’m that organized. Usually my stories start with a nugget of an idea and expand from there. I take quite a while to think about each book before I start. There’s a lot of ‘what if?’ going on in my mind while I’m putting the plot together.
Can you give an example from a published story?
Yes. Call me shallow, but I had an idea that I’d love to write a scene where the two main characters in a book make love without speaking. That was the genesis for my book Fallen Angel.
That sounds like a book I’d like to read Mona. It must have taken a lot of careful thought to come up with something like that.
When deciding how your characters should look, do pictures inspire you or do you think of someone you know? Or perhaps you just rely on an active imagination or another method entirely.
If there are multiple main characters, I’ll sometimes cut pictures out of magazines, stick them on a piece of card stock, and type captions for them. It isn’t so much hair colour or eye colour, but the look on their faces that attracts me. When my granddaughter comes to visit, she’s always dismayed when she finds magazines with holes in them.  I don’t feel it’s necessary to describe everything about each character, however. Not that long ago, authors would describe every detail about a character’s appearance. You don’t see that so much anymore, and I like that. I think readers want to create their own vision of what the character looks like. I never write about people I know; this is fantasy.
I so agree with you. I don’t enjoy books that are too prescriptive either. I would much rather develop my own picture of how the character looks based on just a few simple pointers such as hair colour or height for example.
Do you have a system for developing their character traits? I know some people use Tarot or Astrology. Others produce detailed life histories. There are also writers who allow their characters to develop as they write. What’s your method?
I always know the character’s back story, but I usually let them develop as I write. I often have to go back and consider the reasons behind a character’s actions, and then I might have to ask myself why they did such-and-such, but generally I like to let it flow.
All characters have goals. Can your character’s goals usually be summed up in a word or two, or are they multi-layered? Do they change as you write the book? Could you give some examples?
My characters all have goals. I’m a big believer in GMC… Goal, Motivation and Conflict. Take apart almost any story and you’ll find those three elements. But to answer your question, the goals generally cannot be summed up in a few words. What’s that expression everyone is using these days? Multilayered? That’s how I see my main characters.
Motives drive a character. How do you discover your character’s specific goals? Are they based on back story or do other elements influence their motives?
In my mind, goals and motivations are generally tied together. But motivation gives the story that added dimension. I often like to keep the motivation secret, or use it as a twist near the end of the story. As long as it doesn’t drag on too long and annoy the reader, it’s a good plot device.
I like that idea. What a great way of keeping the pages turning.
And last but not least, do you like your characters? Are they people you would want to spend time with? Assuming they are not just a paper exercise, which of your characters would you most like to meet, and why?
I can’t write about people I don’t like. Of course there are nasty characters in my books from time to time, but the main characters are always likeable. Some would accuse me of being too Canadian, but that’s just me.
As for the heroes, I always write about a hero I’d like to know. It makes them so much more believable. I confess, they’re almost always larger than life. I’ve tried to write about ‘ordinary’ men, but they usually morph into a high-powered type.
Who would I like to meet? Wow, good question. I have two. The first is Freddie, from Fixing Freddie.  He’s my kind of man. Quiet, unassuming, owns a highly successful business, and is comfortable in his own skin. I guess the other would have to be Agnes, from my book Then Came Love. She’s an older woman who speaks her mind and befriends the heroine as well as the hero. We all need someone like Agnes in our lives. That’s the fun part about secondary characters. We can have them say the things we’d like to say!
That was such a fun interview Mona. I certainly learned a few extra tricks from talking to you. Watch out for an outspoken secondary character in my next book! Thank you so much for visiting my casting couch and talking about the characters in your books.
* * *
Like all the writers who visit my Casting Couch, there is another side to Mona.  When she’s not writing or reading, she likes to bird-watch. Quoting from a character in her book, Promise Me, she says it gets her out (in her case, away from the computer for a few hours), and keeps her aware of the environment. She also loves to travel…anywhere, anytime!
Mona is a multi-published author and you can find out more about her and her books a or go on over to her blog at where she talks about her books as well as discussing some of the other things on her mind.
You might also want to visit her Amazon page at and look at some of the many books she has written

1 comment:

Gina Ardito said...

What a fabulous peek into Mona's life as both author and person. Thanks, Sheila, for the insightful questions, and Mona, for your candid answers. I think we write in a very similar fashion. Expandable ideas. :-)