Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Hardheaded

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I have this character, George Chandler. He is the sweetest, kindest, most willing, and all around loveable person. And yet he is the most hardheaded and difficult character I’ve had the pleasure of working with to date!

For those that have read the Ancient Words Series, this may come as a shocker. George appears so laid back on the page. And he is. In chapter two of Where Can I Flee, Claire Harper describes George as a man who can keep a secret. I didn’t realize at the time that’d he could even keep them from me! I mean, I created him! You’d think I would know all of his secrets. But no.

My fellow authors are likely laughing and thinking of their own favorite hardheaded character while my readers are likely getting a side of writing that they didn’t know even existed. For those new to the idea, let me just fill you in. When you give life to a character, as the quote above suggests, you’re no longer the one in charge. A writer might feel powerful at the keyboard but we all know who really pulls the strings.

So, what did I do with my secret-keeping George Chandler? What didn’t I do is more the question. Lol I knew who George was and I understand parts of his story, but he was guarding a major moment of his life. I was going to expose his great shame and he wouldn’t let me.
I revisited his character profile. I found a song that mirrored his heart. I begged. I pleaded. But I was rewarded with silence.
At one point, I even threw my hands in the air and threatened to write him in the scene wearing a pink bonnet and leading a bunny around town on a leash. Lol I thought surely he’d cave now! What Civil War Vet in his right mind wouldn’t? George. That’s who.

When none of my tactics would work, I went to my friend, Dana, for advice. She suggested a couple techniques for finding your character’s voice. Or in this case, reconnecting with your character. Writing a journal and writing an obituary. Sounds weird, huh? Here’s how it works…

The obituary is probably the strangest idea I’ve heard but the purpose is to learn more about your character. Who is this person? What would others say about them? What are their quirky habits? Or dislikes that their family teased them over? Writing an obituary for your character is more than just rewriting the facts that we put together during the character profile. It’s a free-hand writing exercise to discover more about your character that you might not have considered before. For me, writing free handed tends to free up my creative thinking and new details come to life.

For George, this particular exercise didn’t work. He really is pretty tight lipped, even on the page, so I probably should have seen this coming.
The next idea was to write a journal for the character. I sat down to do this and George came to life. His journal turned into an interview, which works much the same. Journal writing is another free handed exercise that allows you to ONLY dig into your character’s voice and personality until hearing from them becomes pretty natural.  The obituary is written from someone else’s point of view while the journal is written by the character.
My interview with George is pretty eye-opening and I’ll share part of it with you further down.

From the author, I’d love to know if you’ve had any experiences with hardheaded characters? Have you tried either of these writing exercises or do you plan to in the future? Follow the link to read other character development exercises.

For the fan, I hope you enjoy this peek at George’s interview. He’s certainly a remarkable person. If you’re looking for more behind the scenes details about your favorite characters, follow the link.

People often think that I’m cold and unfeeling, but I’m not. You think so too. I’ve heard you trying to coax me out. Threatening me with bonnets and bunny rabbits. Haha You do have a mischievous imagination. I admire that, but I’m afraid that I won’t succumb to it.
I’m not easy to bully, you see. I grew up with Eddie if you’d remember. And I’ll not bend unless it is my desire to do so.

– What do you desire?

To do what is right. Honor and nobility is not a dead thing that passed away with the age of the knights.

-So when you decide a plan of course to be right and good, you pursue it without end?

Precisely!

-Is it ever difficult?

Of course. Doing what’s right usually is. It’s often fairly easy to decide on the right course, but staying on is where the real difficulties lie. Sometimes…standing firm in one’s predetermined conviction is the hardest test of all. But a conviction that is easily swayed, is no conviction at all, but simply a mirror of the thoughts surrounding you.

-You speak so nobly of conviction, and yet you speak with experience of its difficulties. Are you thinking of something in particular right now?

You ask because you already know that I am. You wish for me to bare my secrets. Those secret thoughts that I’ve kept from you all these months. You forget that you made me wise to the conduct of others. You’ve created me to be a silent observer. A person capable of reading another as naturally as I read my own thoughts. I see by the shade of your cheeks and the curious lift of your brow that you wish to know how I knew your question was more loaded than the words appeared. The increase of color and smile has proven me right.
Well, I knew what you wanted because I could see your eagerness building with each question. Plus you’ve asked me some rather pointed questions in the past and I have ignored them till now, so I knew what you were after.
Very well! I will tell you what you wish to know. Lead the way.

-I know you have misgivings about the war. Explain…

Because the rest of the interview contains some spoilers, I’m not able to post it in full. However, I offer it for free to any of my fans that wish to read it. You’ll want to have read both Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings first.
For the full interview, simply comment below with your email address or email me privately.
If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy digging into this quiet character. I was able to find out about his true feelings about the war as well as his real feelings for Claire. Until this interview, even I wasn’t sure how deep his feelings for Claire ran.

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Withdrawn

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If you’re finding this post for the first time, you’ve entered into the middle of blog series on character development. My purpose for this series is to laugh along with fellow authors at the antics of our characters as well as pass along some proven tips. For the reader, I hope to entertain them with tidbits about their favorite characters that they most likely didn’t know simply by reading the book.

Fictional characters, you see, have a personality on and off the page. They are as real as any one of us. And like us, they aren’t always easy to work with. Some characters are naturally open and willing to talk. Others need more encouragement. You can read the previous posts on Easy Going Characters and Underdeveloped Characters if you like.

Today I want to talk about those Withdrawn characters. These are the characters that are fully developed, have a story to tell, but just aren’t so open to telling it. They need some coaching. How would you draw out a shy person in the workplace or at school? You’d find something that interested them and talk to them about it. You’d make a point to sit down and conversate with them.

Rose Forrister is one of my newest heroines that you’ll meet on the pages of Out of the Ashes. Rose has a wonderful story to tell and an amazing, spit-fire of a personality. But for some reason, she didn’t want to open up to me. I thought to, quite literally, bake her favorite orange scones and sit at the table with her to chat when something unexpected happened. She sang.

I was listening to a Kelly Clarkson cd when I found Rose’s voice. Her motivation. Her story. Her personality. They were all wrapped up in this one song. Suddenly scenes and dialog were coming to light. This beautiful character that had so perfectly hidden from me was suddenly revealing herself and all I had to do was play the song.

I soon discovered other songs to associate with other characters and their storylines. This became a wonderful tool as I plotted out the novel and even as I wrote key scenes.

Authors: Have you used music in developing any of your characters?
Readers: Interested in hearing some of the characters’ favorite songs? Keep reading. 🙂 

Rose’s song is Because of You by Kelly Clarkson. She seemed to really like Kelly and agreed with nearly the entire cd. When we first meet Rose, she’s recovering from a broken heart. Someone she loved most of her life has tossed her aside, leaving her feeling vulnerable and a little bitter. Well, a lot bitter. If Rose were to call into her favorite radio station tonight, she would dedicate this song to Archie Dunnaway.

 

Without stirring up any comments or spoilers, here’s a song that Eddie Chandler dedicated to Claire. And what a beauty!! This was one of the first songs that a character spoke out on.

 

There are two songs that remind me of Frank Harper. The first one always makes me cry.  It’s the story of his salvation. The second song shares the struggle he battles in the upcoming release. Enjoy them both!!

 

George Chandler is more of a quiet man. I’ll share about my difficulties with this particular character next week, but suffice it to say that I’m not the only one he withholds from. He’s a sweetheart through and through, but he’s not so open about his feelings. That’s where this next song comes into play. When I heard If I Let You Go it had George’s name all over it. The second song, More Than That, shows his tender side. He’s willing to love and love greatly. Now if only he can convince a certain gal of this. 😉
I listened to both of these songs countless times while working with George’s scenes. It helped me keep in touch with who he is and his storyline.

 

Melissa Lowe is another new heroine that I’ll introduce you to in the pages of Out of the Ashes. I’m not ready to say too much about my dear Melissa but I will let you know that she’s in love with someone that doesn’t love her in return. She’s such a patient thing and Anytime by Kelly Clarkson comes from her heart.

 

When fan favorite, Ralph Williams, finds himself in the dog house there is no other song that showcases the heart of this broken man quite like this one does.

 

And for one last song! Completely, has become the theme song for Out of the Ashes. I’m not sure I ever hear this song anymore where I don’t hear Ralph, Frank, and George’s voices ringing out. The broken spirit and need of God’s healing touch is the very core of the story.

 

I’d love to hear back from you! Did you find yourself connecting with one of the songs from my characters? Are you more intrigued by one of the characters based on their chosen song?

 

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Underdeveloped

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I’m doing a 4-month blog series on character development. I want this series to be both for the writer and the reader. I hope to fellowship with other authors and pass along some tips while also entertaining the readers by showing you a side of your favorite characters that you’ve never seen before.
If you’re finding this series for the first time, you’ve entered in on the 2nd post. I’ll post the next installment on the first Monday of May. Here’s a link to last month’s post if you missed it.

I’m a learn as you go sort of gal. When I started writing, I hadn’t planned on it. Meaning, I didn’t attend college with the thought of writing fiction. In fact, I hadn’t even picked up my first book on writing until I had written my first novel. So there were several things that I learned later in my journey that might have made things easier to have known up front. Character development is one of those things.

If you read last month’s post you would have read a list of easy to work with characters. I truly had a writer’s dream cast in my first novel and didn’t even know it! With characters ready and willing to spill their guts and allow me into the dark corners of their minds, it’s little wonder that I was confused when I came across a character that wouldn’t speak to me. After working with Claire, Frank, Olen, and Ralph in Where Can I Flee, I wasn’t prepared for the withdrawn Sally Chandler in In the Shadow of Thy Wings. So why wouldn’t this sweet gal talk to me?

So why wouldn’t this sweet gal talk to me?

I sought the advice of a dear friend of mine, Dana Kamstra. Dana, along with being my writing buddy, is a gold mine for writing advice. She approaches writing the way any serious student should: she studies it. So she’s my go-to gal when I need a new technique. She helped me to understand that an underdeveloped character won’t speak. She also passed on one of her favorite (and now one of my favorite) writing books, Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke.

Plot vs Character helped me to understand which questions to ask and how to layer the many details of any character together until you have someone that looks and feels real. One of the focal points is understanding the character’s Briggs Personality. And this is where the fun begins… 🙂

For those that have never heard of Briggs, let me explain. He basically narrowed down 16 foundational personality types. By answering a series of questions, they’ll determine your personality type. If you’ve never done this for yourself, try it out! It’s fun and enlightening. Take the test for free here.

And then enjoy my favorite site for gathering extensive information about the personality types.

As an author, this is now one of my first stops to character development. Once I have a personality type determined, I’m able to see how this person may react to different situations and it helps me understand them.

Now for some fun, let’s talk personality types. I had taken the test and learned that I am ISFP – The Artist
Once I began exploring the personality type, I found that it made a lot of sense. Suddenly I understood why I found beauty in random objects like a plate of food. Other oddities suddenly made sense, like how I can’t stand to be locked into a schedule. I like the freedom to decide what I want to do and when I want to do it. I seriously have never been able to resist rebelling against my own schedules. Lol
I hate conflict but am a great listener and peacemaker. I pick up on the feelings of other people and am a good judge of character. A perfectionist and fiercely loyal.
It’s been helpful to me as I dug deeper into my personality type and began to understand the whys behind the things that I never noticed about myself before. I stopped trying to schedule myself and embraced my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mentality.

How about your favorite characters from the Ancient Words Series
Claire Harper: ESFP The Performer
Claire is at home being the center of attention. She’s fun-loving and chatty.
Frank Harper: INFJ The Protector
Frank tends to stick to things until they’re finished. He’s sensitive and quietly forceful.
Eddie Chandler: ESTP A Doer
Eddie is spontaneous and compulsive. He’s a man of action and not words.
George Chandler: ISFJ The Nurturer
George is very responsible with a deep desire to serve others. He’s gifted at observing other people.
Sally Chandler: ISFP The Artist
Sally is very quiet and kind. She’s sensitive to the feelings of others and she HATES conflict.
Ralph Williams: ENTJ The Executive
Ralph is a take-charge kind of person. He’s a natural leader and a long term planner.

Now it’s your turn! What is your personality type and how does it fit?

Posted in About the Book

Behind the Scenes: Character Development: The Easy

80Have you ever enjoyed a movie or tv show and been so caught up in the chemistry between the characters on screen, only to be shocked to learn in an interview that behind the scenes the actors hated each other? The hero in your favorite show is actually a jerk when the camera isn’t on. He shows up late, he brings his nasty attitude, or he’s so drugged up that it’s a wonder they were able to film at all. Or the leading lady known for stealing hearts on screen is the most difficult diva on the face of the earth.

Well, let me let you in on a little secret we authors know all too well: the same can be said for literary characters. You’d think that with the written word, the author was the one in charge. But, Nooooooooooo. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You see, there’s a reason why readers often comment on how real the character felt. Or how the characters just came to life. It’s because they ARE real. And like real people, they have different attitudes and different work ethics. The author’s job then is learning how to connect with each character so that they can find their story and share it with everyone else.

I’ve worked with some diverse characters recently and I want to share my experiences with you. I want this to be a fun and encouraging experience for everyone.
For the reader, I want to show you some insider information about some of your favorite characters. I’m going to show you which ones were easy to work with and which ones I had to coax out of their shell.
For the fellow author, I want to laugh along and share the common experiences together as well as share some techniques that have been successful for me.
I intend to share these fun details in a new blog series that I’ve titled, Behind the Scenes: Character Development. You’ll find a new installment to the series on the first Monday of every month. Today, we’ll kick it off with those Easy-Peasy Characters.

An easy to work with character would be a character that needs no coaxing. Someone who is always ready to share the details with me. Someone whose voice appeared in my head so naturally that I knew them from the first moment.

If you’ve read my series, it should not surprise you that Claire Harper would top the list of easy characters. Claire is known for being a chatty person and she’s exactly the same off the page. I never had to beg her to reveal scenes to me; she was always ready to talk. Her brother Frank is just like her, although he’s less chatty on page. From day one, Frank was willing to sit down and tell his story.
Their father, Olen, is known for being extremely quiet so it might surprise you to know that he’s extremely easy-going. Olen is most known for being laid back and delivering a timely one-liner. He’s often seen sitting quietly as everyone, mostly Claire, commands the entire scene with her chatter, but then seemingly out of nowhere, he speaks. And in that moment, he says so much more than anyone else in the room. And behind the scenes, Olen is the exact same way. He’s quiet by nature, but there’s an openness about him that makes him easy to work with.
Ralph Williams was another easy character for me to work with. He’s not as chatty as Claire by any means, but then few are. But there’s such an openness about him. He doesn’t feel the need to hold back or hide from me. The beautiful thing is when you get two very open and willing characters together they simply write the scenes themselves.
Eddie and Rachel Chandler, Danny-Ray Coffer, and Jimmy Allen were all easy characters to work with. Their roles were smaller but I didn’t have to find them. When it was time to step onto the page, they were ready and willing to do their part. No questions asked.

Chapters 5 and 15 are both very popular scenes from In the Shadow of Thy Wings. Both are between Claire and Ralph and go down as the absolute easiest scenes I’ve ever written. These two know how to play off of each other so naturally. If only all scenes were written so effortlessly. Lol
Speaking of playing well off of each other, Claire and Frank have a natural talent for smooth scenes together. Being close friends and twins may have helped. 😉 My favorite and most effortless scene between the two is found at the end of chapter 13 of In the Shadow of Thy Wings.

I may have given you the illusion that all characters are simple and my job is pretty easy peasy. And for that, I’m sorry. Lol My job is anything but. I started you off with the easy guys first. But next month, I’ll introduce you to one of my more difficult characters. You’re gonna love it, I promise!

I’d love to hear back from my readers. Were you surprised to see some of these characters on my list for easy to work with characters or had you imagined them this way all along? Are you confused about not seeing someone on there that you thought would have made it?