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Writing Advice From Terry McMillan

Terry McMillan is the New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, including the now-classic Waiting To Exhale. Now, 25 years since her debut, she’s back with Who Asked You?, a multi-generational family saga that is already being applauded by critics. In the latest installment of So What Do You Do?, she tells Mediabistro about creating memorable characters, the challenges of writing from the perspective of an eight-year-old and the pressure of living up to all the hype:

You’re known for writing such authentic characters. How do you keep them all straight?
Well, first of all, it’s not as hard as you would think. If you take [people] that you know really well, and you had to capture them on paper — their gesticulations, how they talk, how they think — from what you know about them, you could do it. But before anything, I do a lot to profile my characters so that I know them. I know almost everything about them, in terms of their educational background, how tall they are, what color they are, what they like and don’t like, what their favorite class was in school, what they’re afraid of, what their biggest secret is, if they lie, if they pay their bills on time, what they wish they coulda, woulda, shoulda done, etc., etc.

To learn more about Terry McMillan’s writing process, read So What Do You Do, Terry McMillan, New York Times Best Selling Author?

Aneya Fernando

Mediabistro Course

Food Writing

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