A good story has to feature interesting characters. Luckily, author Kay Honeyman has a lot of real-life characters to give her inspiration.
In addition to writing, Honeyman also teaches at Highland Park ISD and Southern Methodist University. Her everyday interactions with students and teenagers bleed into the characters she creates in her young adult novels.
“You can draw inspiration from anywhere,” Honeyman said to a group of DIS students at the upper campus. “You can almost play games with it. People might say something to me, and I’m like well, you’re going to end up in my next book, and you don’t even know it.”
Honeyman’s first novel, The Fire Horse Girl, was published in 2013 to critical acclaim. It followed the story of a young Chinese girl who immigrates to the United States. Honeyman’s newest book, Interference, follows a similar path, but with a central character who moves from Washington, D.C. to a tiny West Texas town.
“I like fish-out-of-water stories,” Honeyman said. “I like taking a person out of their norm and see how they survive. I often try to get conflict on every single page by having the character conflict with the place that they’re in.”
Honeyman read a passage from her new novel to the students and then dove into her process for creating characters. She hoped to give some guidance to any aspiring writers in the audience.
“I think of characters on three dimensions,” Honeyman said. “The first dimension is what you see—what they’re wearing, how do they move, etc. The second dimension is why you see it. It helps make the first dimension matter. The second dimension is the interesting part of characters. And the third dimension is a character’s default behavior. It’s what they do when they’re pushed up against the wall.”
After detailing some of her creative methods, Honeyman began a role playing game with the students to help illustrate conflict between characters in a story. Certain students received a sign with a character’s name on it. Ribbon was used to stretch across the room and connect any two characters that were experiencing conflict in the plot. A veritable web was made.
Sufficiently enlightened, the students began to ask more probing questions of Honeyman.
How does she pick names for her characters?
“I want a name that fits,” Honeyman said. “I look up baby names a lot of times. I also have an app called Writer’s List. It gives you first and last names. Usually, I hit something that feels right.”
How does she decide on a cover for her books?
“The publishing house does the cover,” Honeyman said. “They want it to be eye-catching and to reveal a little bit of the story. I didn’t have much to do with the cover in my previous book, but I had more to do with my most recent one.”
Did she always want to be a writer?
“I’ve always been a big reader, and I’ve always loved stories,” Honeyman said. “But I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer. I have a lot of catching up to do, because I didn’t start until I was a teacher.”
Honeyman encouraged everyone in the audience to keep writing and keep trying. In the end, she said, you don’t have to be a wordsmith to get published.
“You can read beautiful writing and appreciate it for a little while,” Honeyman said. “But it’s not going to keep you for 300 pages. A good story, even if it’s mediocre writing, will hold you. It’s so much better.”