Thursday, October 25, 2012

Building 3-D Characters.

Not long ago, I attended a workshop and met the delightful woman sitting behind me - Cherry Adair. New York Times best-selling author, taking the same craft seminar, underscoring we should never stop learning. I’m happy to welcome her as our guest for today’s blog as she shares her thoughts about crafting characters.

Writing interesting characters – making them three dimensional- is the very heartbeat of a good story. Even if one’s plot is ho hum, if your reader connects with your characters you’ll keep them turning pages (and lining up to buy your next book and the next).
My first step in building an interesting character is their name. It shouldn’t be something unpronounceable with lots of letters and no vowels, or something so unusual that every time it’s on the page it slows down the reader as their brain stumbles over the unfamiliar. We don’t want readers spending the entire book trying to figure out how to pronounce a name.
I always give my main character’s a first, middle and last name. (What does their mother yell when she’s mad at them? lol) Even if you never use that middle name, you should know it. As soon as I name a character, I want to know what other people in the book are going to call them. Is it a nickname? A pet name? Is one character the only person that calls her by this particular name when everyone calls her something else? Do they like the name, hate the name, call themselves by another name?
Next find an image. I tend not to use celebrities because they already have characteristics I know. I look for a fresh face, a blank canvas, so my characters are mine, all mine.
Next I give them a birthday. I don’t allow myself to think about it, or read astrological signs – Do this fast. I just tell myself this characters birthday is March 21st 1992. Done. I do this for each major character, and that includes villains (it doesn’t have to be a mustache twirling bad guy – it could be the hero’s mother-in-law.) All the main characters have a birthday. Day, month and year. The most important thing with birthdays is you can not change it once you chose it!  No matter what.
Once you have a birthday, research that astrological sign and you’ll see who your person is. Pick three to five character traits, and use at least once in every scene that character is in. No matter who’s POV you’re in. If the person is on the page, make sure they have characteristics individual to them. If this is who you want, you’re golden. You have all their characteristics under their sun sign, and you’re ready to write. What is the astrological sign isn’t who you want your character to be? Snoopy dance!  But I love it when I inadvertently end up with a person I didn’t want, and have no desire to write. This is striking gold! (remember, no changing birthdays). If you have a meek and mild astrological sign, when the character you want is a kick butt, fire sign, then you need to go into their backstory and see what changed them from meek, to fire. Give them life experiences, learning curves, lessons in their past, things that have changed them (for better or worse). Make them who you want them to be, but be sure to motivate those changes.
What’s fabulous about this is that you make sure that the ‘original them’ peeks through now and then. You can decide if, when the chips are down, they use everything they’ve learned over the years, or if they revert back to who they used to be.

Once I have their name, date of birth, and characteristics, I write their backstory. I want to know about their family (even if that family never appears on the page) How they were raised, how they grew up, who their patents are/were, how their parents treated them, their birth order, their level of education- all these things go into who they are the moment they first appear on the page. Be sure to add milestones in their life, the good and the bad. Know what they love. What they hate. What is their Kryptonite? What do they consider their strengths? What do they consider their weaknesses? What makes them happy. How do they feel about money (or lack thereof). Another thing I always know about a character before I start writing is how they behave if they’re scared. What is their tendency? To run away? To ask for help? To tackle even the scariest situation by themselves?

Knowing all of the above about your characters before you write Chapter One gives you a solid base to build your 3-D characters on so that once you start writing, you don’t have to come up with his brother’s name on the fly, or decided half way through the book it would be cool if he’s an orphan.

If he’s a three dimensional person in your head, he’ll saunter onto the page, thumbs in his back pockets, scar on his hard head from falling off the jungle gym when he was seven, barely healed heart after Roxanne jilted him at the alter when he was twenty-six, squinting because he refuses to wear his glasses. He’ll look out of that page with so much personality readers will hold their breath as they turn the page to see what he’ll do next.
You can visit Cherry at her website and check out her recent release Ice Cold

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Farewell Miranda

The Thrill Begins will go dark for a week, beginning Thursday, October 18th, to honor Miranda's memory and the enormous contribution she made to the Debut Authors program

Saturday, October 13, 2012

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                                         In Memory Of

                                  Davidae “Dee” Stewart
                                Writing as Miranda Parker

                          February 3, 1973 - October 5, 2012

                       Author ~ Heart health advocate ~ Friend

                   Please add your favorite memory about, or tribute to, Miranda in the comments

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

October Debut Releases

Happy October and Happy Thrilling Thursday. The first of every month we will feature members of our Debut October 2012. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

F.T. Bradley, DOUBLE VISION (Harper Collins), October 2012

Twelve-year-old Linc is a trouble-maker with a dilemma. His antics on a recent school field trip went way overboard, landing his already poor family with a serious lawsuit. So when two secret agents show up at his house, Linc is eager to take them up on their offer to make the lawsuit disappear. They just need one tiny favor.

Douglas Wynne - THE DEVIL OF ECHO LAKE (Journal Stone) October 2012

Goth rock idol Billy Moon has it all: money, fame, and a different girl in every city.
But he also has a secret, one that goes all the way back to the night he almost took his own life. The night Trevor Rail, a shadowy record producer with a flair for the dark and esoteric, agreed to make him a star. . . for a price.

Blind Spot

Laura Ellen - BLIND SPOT (Harcourt) October 2012

Seventeen-year-old Tricia Farni’s body floated to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Roz, who struggles with macular degeneration, is used to assembling fragments to make sense of the world around her. But this time it’s her memory that needs piecing together—to clear her name . . . to find a murderer.