Character development is my absolutely FAVORITE part when it comes to starting on a new book. Whether writing or reading, I love to see how an author chooses to introduce a character. Molding them carefully only to reveal what they want and at the right times. It’s a tricky process and it’s SO crucial because if a reader cannot connect with your characters… they won’t finish the book. No matter how amazing your story is, your reader MUST feel invested in who they are reading about.
Which don’t get me wrong, a strong storyline is equally important, but that’s another post in itself.
I’ve been asked how I wrote a book.
Did you actually write it in order, or did you write pieces then put them together later?
How long did it take you to write it?
Seasons changed. People don’t quite understand it can take months to years to write a book.
How did you choose that kind of character?
A lot of times, someone telling a random story about their trip to the grocery store will stick… and I’ll build on it. I will sit and just write in my notebook like a journal. I put in my mind that I am that person, and these are my thoughts. I talk about something I want to be important to them, something that happened in their life that shaped who they are. I describe them physically, their likes and dislikes, how they view things. This may go on for several pages.
And what is more interesting is, I don’t even use all of that IN the book. (My feature picture of this post is one of the pages of Patrice’s story… all of which I nixed from the book… all of it… her story is told through everyone else. She is arguably the stronger character in the novel). I may use NONE of it! But what that does, is it makes them real. It makes me take care of them in my story, or not depending. I’ll do this for each major character. If you read my short story titled The Mouse you read about Irina. I really enjoyed writing about her, and did a LOT of writing on her… she isn’t even a main character in my second novel that she was created for. What we all have to learn as writers, is knowing what is necessary, and what is fluff. What sounds realistic and what sounds inauthentic. What means something to you, but nobody else will care about or connect with. Like the whole “everyone thinks their own kid is adorable, but someone else might think they’re a troll”… So her part in my book, I had to pick apart what made her relevant enough to mention, unique enough to hold interest, but not too much to deter from the point of the story.
Also, don’t be afraid to give them flaws, after all, it’s normal! Everyone isn’t beautiful and happy, even if you’re not writing a darker story… people have freckles, scars, weird hairlines, goofy laughs, arrogance, insecurities, struggles… they’re real people… only not… make sense? It’s not enough to just describe them, what makes them tick? What do their counterparts think about them? How do the others see them?
One thing I learned as well that REALLY strengthened my characters after about 4 read overs myself, and then having a few people read it (because you NEEDSSSSS to do that before you even think about saying you’re finished)… is dialogue!
Not too much… nobody cares about the mundane movements of life. But a pinnacle moments between two people… how do they speak to one another. Do they touch, smile, fidget, avert their eyes to avoid an awkward silence? One thing we don’t get in real life is knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling in those defining moments. Include a little backstory – a memory maybe that means something to them.
You know that moment right when you are saying goodbye to the guy you thought you’d be with forever and all you want him to do is tell you not to leave, but he doesn’t… so you spend weeks or even years wondering what could have been?
A book allows you to be a fly on the wall… er… page. You GET to know what he’s thinking, even though the other person doesn’t… which is kind of cruel, but it’s FICTION PEOPLE! You really get insight on them doing this. You get to see into who they are and why, and that’s the magic of storytelling.
All of this is why I love writing and I hope when I complete The Quiet Ones, you will all fall deep into these characters just as you (hopefully) did with We All Fall Down! I really look forward to seeing you all at my book signings and would love to answer any questions you have about the story or the process!