Working on my fourth novel, a historical mystery set in 1945 San Francisco, I’m finding myself spending what may be an excessive amount of time getting to know my characters before letting them loose on the page. I mean some of these are pretty detailed descriptions (see the bulletin board above)—their education, things that shame them, what makes them proud, their romantic histories, and how these are all revealed in the songs they hum and what they do with their hands when they lie. Much of this will never get in the book.

This kind of work is fun, second only to digging into research rabbit holes to uncover pivotal details like popular sandwich orders or swear words from 1945. But lately, I’ve been wondering: is all this pre-planning necessary, or am I just procrastinating?

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