Family Planning

Today, I gave my fictional character (Jillian Cage) a gift. I gave her the gift of a family but it turns out that I have benefited from it more than her.

I started to think about her family over the weekend. I wanted to establish some basic biographical information. How old were her parents? How long were they married? Where did they live? How many children did they have? What were their children’s occupations? I asked myself several questions along those lines and so today I set about to answer them.

What I did is sit down with a template and started filling in details. I had name, occupation, age, marital status, children and location. I did this for her parents, her siblings and for Jillian herself. I also made sure that the math worked out on things like ages and wedding anniversaries and so on.

This was a good exercise for character development. If I hadn’t sat down and asked myself how many siblings she had, I don’t think I would have arrived at the number I eventually came to this afternoon. By knowing what they did and where they lived I was able to compare and contrast Jillian with her siblings. Which ones would she be closer to and which ones would she have some distance with and why?

I really did learn a lot about Jillian Cage this afternoon. I say I learned about her and that might sound odd to some because she is my creation. And yet, learning is exactly the right word for it. There are now things I understand about her that I didn’t when I first got an idea for a character and set about considering the world in which she lived. I was surprised that she had as many siblings as she did and yet the biographies don’t lie. I also discovered that she was 5 years younger than I placed her in the first draft of the story I wrote last week.

I apologize for not being more specific with details. I’m not as specific because a lot of this is still pretty fluid. I shared my story beginning with a few people last week and they will also see the family tree in one form or another at some point. I haven’t dealt much with the personalities of her parents or siblings but figure that such matters can be addressed when they need to be. I know one sibling that might be a big part of a future story but as of now the rest are less important and exist to stand in contrast with Jillian.

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