Updates

Status: Releasing Entranced on February 17!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Compelling Characters

Jumping on the bandwagon! (Thanks, Elana!)

How well do we know our characters?

People aren't static. Everything we do changes us. Everything we witness, everything that happens to us.

Yet often times in books, it seems that the characters are static. Flat. They don't change. As readers we anticipate a change. We watch the cause on one screen and turn to the next screen to see the effect. If there is none, we feel a huge let-down.

The relationship between your characters is changing, evolving. Have you noticed? How well do you really know your characters?

My characters have a huge back story. Most of it is never revealed in the book. At one point it was revealed, but most of those scenes have been deleted. And it doesn't matter. My characters still react to things in context of their histories. The little reveals add depth to the novel, they add mystery and intrigue. Just like our relationships with our friends in real life. When we meet someone, they don't hand us a pamphlet with their back story (though heaven knows, sometimes it would be nice). We get to know them little by little. We discover their eccentricities and what makes them tick, and sometimes we never quite find out what it is about brown socks and rabbits that sends them into a tizzy every time, but we know it does.

With our characters, we get to be parents. Gods. Procreaters. Again and again and again. When I created Jayne for my book Inevitable, I had so much fun making her features, designing her personality, and thinking up her favorite things to do. But just like with parenting, an interesting thing happened: as I wrote about Jayne, some things really fit--and others didn't. How?? I made her! But Jayne took on her own life. She is who she is, not who I want her to be.

It's okay to mess with your characters. Do something crazy, just for fun. Write a scene where one of your characters breaks a personal moral standard. What does that do to your character? How does it affect the relationships with the other characters? Write a scene where the character witnesses a crime. Loses a sibling. Gets a scholarship.

Get to know your characters again. It's amazing how dynamic they are.

And, oh, another note! While the ebook of Perilous is coming out on October 5 (yikes! just days away!), the paper copy won't be released until November 16. Minor change! But I need your OPINIONS. I planned my blog tour around a release date of Nov. 1, with four weeks before and four weeks after. Should I shuffled everyone back two weeks? Or just leave it the way it is? (Those of you participating, feel free to give your thoughts!)

26 comments:

Jen Daiker said...

"We get to be parents," isn't that the truth! We coax them out with cookies so they'll talk to us, scold them when they aren't doing something that needs to happen. Asking them to clean up their mess, learn their lessons!!!

What a way to look at it. Fun post!

Jamie said...

Great post...I love the idea of "messing" with our characters. That's a great idea!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I love this, Tamara! I especially love the way you recommend we "mess" with our characters. That's perfect! :-)

Stephanie Faris said...

I once had a character questionnaire that i would use for every character...I've since lost it. I'm sure it's online somewhere and I could just edit it to my needs. I need to start doing that again!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Stephanie, I totally used one I found online for Jayne, just changed it a bit to fit my purposes!

Exactly! I mean, we find out who we are when we get messed with...so it helps to do it to our characters, too!

Elana Johnson said...

I'm so glad I now have your permission to mess with my characters. Sometimes I feel bad messing up their lives. And putting those pieces back together is painful for everyone involved.

I think I was kicking off the tour on the 1st, no? I don't mind if you push it back, since I'd kind of like to read the book first. Is that possible?

Amparo Ortiz said...

Absolutely heart this post! I also believe that change is c-r-u-c-i-a-l for a character to stay with me after I'm done reading the book. As I said on my blog, static is boring. :)

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Yay, Amparo!Glad you love it!

Kittie Howard said...

Hi, I'm dropping in from KarenG's blog. My husband retired from the USMC after 30 years. I understand your husband is in Afghanistan. As a military wife I understand what you're going thru. Actually, there aren't any words to describe the emotions woven into war, only that vague understanding that lingers. From my heart, I send both of you hugs, tight hugs and prayers for a safe return.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Oh, thank you Kittie! So sweet of you!

Lisa Marie Miles said...

Great post, thanks!

Melissa said...

I don't see my characters as my children so much as my best friends, as little pieces of me that have taken on lives of their own.

This is an excellent post.

Vicki Rocho said...

Love the bit about letting your characters evolve/change. It's a natural consequence of all the wicked things we do to them...but why do so many shy away from it?

N. R. Williams said...

I know very little about tours Tamara, but my gut felling would be to move it back. I enjoyed your post.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Thank you, Nancy! That's exactly what I'm thinking. Now I just have to email all parties involved and get it arranged.

DL Hammons said...

I also like the approach where everything around your character is changing, and they struggle to stay grounded within themselves. It creates an interesting dynamic!

PS. I'd leave your dates the way they are.

Lisa Potts said...

Great post and congrats on the book release. I've added it to my Goodreads list.

Jemi Fraser said...

Terrific post Tamara. Great pointers :)

I haven't done a blog tour, but I think it's going to work either way!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I guess if we are like parents to our characters, we have to expect them to rebel at a certain point. ;)

Elena Solodow said...

I'm almost tempted to ask for an informational pamphlet every time I meet someone now...

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I don't know how I missed you over the weekend??? I hit almost everyone's post... I'm so glad I click on your name on DL's blog this morning. :) Congratulations on your upcoming book release. (smile) Are you in DL's critique group? I grew up near him and know another person in his group and just wondered...

Have a great week!

Happy Writing!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I love creating backstory. Our characters had lives before we started to write their story and what happened in the past, affects their future.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

ha ha ha, Elana! Don't worry, I plan on having lots of 'extra' information on my blog and stuff.

Sharon, actually I've never met DL! We'll be meeting up at the conference in a few weeks. I didn't know he was from Arkansas until a few months ago!

Amen, Nicole. That's exactly how it is.

Julie said...

"Get to know your characters again. It's amazing how dynamic they are."

They certainly are! Great post!

Joanna St. James said...

hey i was thinking u could just lengthen your tour, start off with the online readers and finish off with the paperback readers.
Goodluck and u are right I also wanted to knock Bella's head for being fuddyduddy

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

ha ha, Joanna! Glad we're in agreement there! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...