I often hear from fans of my books that they’d love to have Waverly Bryson as a friend. This always makes me smile, because it shows that my readers see Waverly as an actual person. In real life, people evolve over time (or at least they should) but don’t change who they are at the core, so the challenge in writing four books with the same protagonist was to preserve her fundamental personality while allowing her to mature. That was a tricky thing to do, because I didn’t want anyone to think I’d strayed too far from the Waverly they’d fallen in love with in Perfect on Paper.
I didn’t follow a particular strategy to allow Waverly to “grow up,” but I did let her speak to me as I wrote the sequels to Perfect on Paper. That may sound a bit nuts, but it’s true. For each book, I’d sit at my computer, come up with a general idea for a story, then ask myself a series of questions as I went along. I believe following this approach worked, because allowing Waverly to provide the answers helped shape three more books that stayed true to her.
For example, when Waverly realizes she might be losing Jake because of her own insecurity in It’s a Waverly Life, I asked myself, How would this situation make her feel? What would she do about it? In Honey on Your Mind, I decided it would be fun if Waverly were offered a chance to work on a TV show but would have to move to New York to do it. I asked myself, How would she feel about leaving San Francisco? Where would she want to live in New York, and why? Then, in Chocolate for Two, I wanted Jake and Waverly to get married but not without some conflict, so I introduced Jake’s frosty mother, whose plans for the wedding differ dramatically from Waverly’s. Here I thought, How would Waverly’s life experience inform her reaction to this realization? Then later,How would she explain to her friends—and herself—why she’s not standing up to Mrs. McIntyre?
For each question, large or small, I would wait for the answer to reveal itself—and when it did, I wrote it down. I rarely forced the creative process, but when I occasionally wound up with a line or section that just didn’t sound like something Waverly would say or do, I deleted or changed it.
What I love most about Waverly Bryson is that she’s real. And by that I mean sincere. She’s flawed, but she tries her best to be a good person, no matter where she is in her personal and professional development. I wanted that quality to shine through in all four books, and I hope it did. And of course, wherever the future takes her, she’ll always have those cringe-worthy Waverly moments—some things will never change.
This blog post originally appeared on the Kindle Daily Post.