Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Getting to know your characters

This is that awkward phase of finishing the novel in progress, but characters are calling out to me for the next one. "Schumaker" (which title will be improved upon before it is released) is going to the editor the first week of October. I will continue to fix the issues until that point (and yes, there are still issues).  I'll keep you posted.


While I'm taking that deep breath that says, "I'm almost done, I need to recover from the effort it takes to complete this project," I can't get the new characters to be quiet. Amend that. They aren't all new characters. Returning for the next novel will be Cinda Cooper, Audrey's best friend in Living Canvas. To tie this all together, maybe you didn't know that Greg in Living Canvas is Kira's brother from Touched by the Sun (The Treasure of St. Paul).

Cinda's character was greatly impugned during the reading/writing of Living Canvas and she has been stomping around inside my head telling me she wants her say. She doesn't think people understand her. So I sat down and outlined her story.

There is a psychological personality profile, or enneagram, that helps people - business people, writers, and whoever else has a need to profile personalities - to understand what makes people tick. In anticipation of not missing some of Cinda's finer qualities, I ran an enneagram on her. It's pretty much what I expected, but it helps me to know more about her background and the way she responds under stress or in a positive situation. As I ran it, I realized I'd gone through this process before, when I first started writing Living Canvas years ago.

Most characters are fairly straight "reads." You know them like you know your best friends. You know what makes them tick, what makes them shrink, what makes them grow. Some characters aren't quite so straightforward. Cinda never was.

I read a book recently by Susan Elizabeth Phillips with an alpha female character, one who was so very unlikeable and one the reader has to find a way to like. SEP is very good at writing her characters that way. Make them the most godawful people that ever walked the earth, and make your readers root for them by the end of the novel. Cinda might not be quite that awful, but she ranks up there with disagreeable, manipulative, meddling people. My personality doesn't blend well with that type, so I don't have a "friend" to base her on. Hence, the enneagram. I can tell you that she was much nastier in the original drafts of Living Canvas. Much less likeable than she ended up (much to the amazement of those of you who have voiced your dislike of her as she appeared). During the writing process, I got to know her better. And that's why, when she insisted I show people "the real Cinda," I felt I had no choice.

I'm hoping to take a page out of the SEP writing handbook. A touch of humor helps defend an unlikeable character. Some sympathy for the devil (maybe that's the working title?!).  Hopefully when I'm done, she won't appear quite the devil she seems.


  1. I'm always amazed when I read in your posts just what goes into writing a book and how involved you get with the characters. I'm looking forward to your next book.

  2. Thanks Mario's mom. Having some writers angst with Schumaker, we'll see what the editor thinks. Have made some excellent progress on Cinda in the meantime. I'll keep you posted when I have a release date.

  3. Happy to meet you. I will look forward to seeing what you say and how things develop.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Ramblingon! Happy to meet you too.

  5. YOu will see Katie Isabella, my blogging kitty here following you. Can't seem to get my own ID to show up. Just hers.