A good story is made up from a host of elements that when jumbled together and skillfully molded become a glorious whole – just like Dixie Jewett’s fabulous horse. Plot, setting, theme, writing style and characters all must blend to make the whole pleasing. Being an omnivorous reader (yes, even when I’m not editing) I am happy with a plot driven or an action driven story, but I am smitten by a character driven tale. Reading a character driven novel is like crashing a party and making the acquaintance of new and fascinating people.
The main characters always have some attraction otherwise they wouldn’t support the story and make the reader care. Who couldn’t be enthralled by bossy Elizabeth Bennet and the steely D’Arcy, or Scarlett and Rhett? And then there’s Hannibal Lector, the very pinnacle of evil yet more compelling than a ten-ton magnet. Depending on how the story is structured we can learn their history upfront, or it is revealed through out the narrative, but there is always enough time and story space to make that all-important emotional connection through, not just history, but mannerisms, speech patterns, and motivations.
It is the secondary characters – the extras, if you will – that are often the most colorful component of great novels. Dickens’ genteelly mad Miss Haversham, du Mauier’s chilling Mrs. Danvers. Creating a supporting cast that adds a glint of darkness, a spark of humor or a touch of humanity to a story. Beyond helping to create a personality in a novel, this supporting cast is also critical to fleshing out the setting – you know you’re in NYC when your hero is depressed and seeks the ever freely given advice of street smart Dominick De Luca at his World Famous Hotdog cart. You feel you’re in San Francisco when the hero hears the Powell Street cable car and hops on to her morning repartee with Phillip the droll veteran conductor.
Secondary characters can be tools to move the action forward. If your protagonist needs to be placed in a situation that is out of character for her, use a secondary character to get her there. For instance, the contrary but kind old Mr. Kronke is Mia’s downstairs neighbor to whom she can never say no. Too ill to act on his passion for the horses Mia agrees to deliver his bet to the shady off license where she stumbles into a handsome man and so meets the hero.
Finally, supporting characters make great sounding boards to help the main characters work out internal conflict. Think about the key role lively dialog with the saucy office receptionist might play, or a hip bartender. Dithering Aunt Renada, for instance, is far more compelling than your main character’s long internal dialogue.
Just remember that you, the author, are creating a whole world and you must populate it. Your cast of characters can be useful, colorful, thoughtful, wicked, wise or witty but they should never be boring. Look at the world around you, note all the people you come in contact with, and you will have all the inspiration you need to create fantastic and memorable characters.
With a BA in Anthropology and English I pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. It was a great choice for me. I love the process of creating and am privileged to be part of that process for so many great voices — voices both seasoned and new.
I’ve worked on nearly 400 books over 20 years, books by noted authors published by New York houses including Penguin, Kensington, Pentacle and Zebra as well as with Indie bestsellers and Amazon dynamos. From Air Force manuals and marketing materials to memoirs, thrillers, sci fi and romance, my services range from copyediting to developmental coaching.
Having worked in advertising and marketing, I am always cognizant of the marketplace in which the author’s work will be seen. I coach for content and style with that knowledge in mind in order to maximize sales and/or educational potential. My objective is to help the author’s material stand out from an ever more crowded and competitive field.
I have been on a blog tour for the past few weeks, which has been great. Itâ€™s given me a chance to chat with readers from all over. I can say that because, I know one of the blog stops was based in the United Kingdom and another was based in Australia. Iâ€™ve officially gone international. YEAH!
There are a lot of things I like about blog toursâ€¦Iâ€™ll expound more once itâ€™s over. One of the things I like is it forced me to really get to know my book. I know that sounds strange seeing I wrote the story, but there were a lot of things I had forgotten about their back story and personality. We talk a lot about building or developing characters at RWA and this was very helpful.
I am the first to admit, I am a novice when it come to writer lingo or jargonâ€¦protagonist, story arch, subplot, syntax, deep point of view, conflict. antagonist, alliteration. And donâ€™t get me started on lengthâ€¦short story, novelette , novella, full length, jumbo or super length. I may not explain it in correct author terms, but I get by. However, thereâ€™s one thing I know for sure, I read what I like and write what I like.
So when I decided to do the blog tour, I was asked to do a character interview. What the crap. I had no clue what that was. Iâ€™m not a stupid woman. I graduated college with honors. I had my own sports segment on my college television station for a year, which also aired on local cable. I interned in the Sports Department at the local NBC Station in Tulsa for a year. I worked in Public Relations and the music industry. Plus I run my own business, but this stumped me. When the blog tour promoter answered my simple question, another, â€œWhat the crap!â€ popped into my head. How was I going to interview these two people without giving the story away. Oh yeah, and I had to provide the questions.
I thought long and hard about this and once I started writing, it just flowed. This was my favorite type of interview to do during the tour. Iâ€™m already kicking around possible questions for characters from my next books. A good thing about this type of interview/post, is it makes the characters seem real, which helps tell the story.
Hereâ€™s my post from a couple of days ago that first appeared on Writer In Progress Blog [www.writerip.blogspot.com].
Meet GENERATIONAL CURSEâ€™s Kyla James and Sean Prescott
GENERATIONAL CURSE is set in New York. However, there are a few things about Sean and Kyla you might find interesting. So letâ€™s ask them.
Where do you live?
KYLA: Upper East Side
Tell us about your family? Any sisters and/or brothers?
KYLA: I grew up in a traditional home. My fatherâ€™s a doctor and my mother is his support. I have a younger sister, whoâ€™s also married to a doctor. All of them live in the suburbs.
SEAN: I grew up in a traditional situation. My dad is in construction and my mother worked in his office until a few years ago. They live in the suburbs. My older brother is married and is heart surgeon. He and his family live in California.
What do you do for a living?KYLA: Iâ€™m an Interior Designer
SEAN: Iâ€™m a Furniture Designer
Where do you work?
KYLA: All over Manhattan, the Hamptons and a few projects in Florida and Chicago
SEAN: My showroom is in Tribeca. However, I do custom work for clients all over the world.
How did you meet?
KYLA: I was leaving an appointment and walked passed his showroom and a chair in the window caught my eye.
SEAN: Thatâ€™s not how we met. I was doing a showing in Charlotte and she came in.
KYLA: I donâ€™t remember that.
SEAN: She walked in and started stroking all of the sofas and taking pictures. Then she asked if I shipped to New York. I said yes and gave her my card.
KYLA: Oh yeah. Now I remember. Because when he turned around and I saw his behind, I forgot about everything that happened beforehand.
KYLA: Shut up. Next question.
Is that how you started working together?
KYLA: No. I think it was at least what, a year later?
SEAN: About six months. Thatâ€™s when she walked into my showroom.
KYLA: Thatâ€™s right, now I remember. It was the chair. I knew it looked familiar. I went inside and I was surprised to see him. We started talking andâ€¦
What about the chair?
KYLA: I ordered it for my client.
SEAN: Then she came back the following month for another client and weâ€™ve been working on projects ever since.
So when did you start going out?
KYLA: Who said we were going out?
SEAN: Weâ€™re just friends.
Really, you seem very comfortable with each other.? [Theyâ€™re both smiling]
KYLA: Uhmâ€¦Iâ€™m in a relationship right now. Besides, I donâ€™t like to mix pleasure with business.
SEAN: So am I pleasure or business?
KYLA: Next question
Have you ever been in love? Engaged? Married?
KYLA: No. No. No.
SEAN: Yes. Yes. No.
What happened Sean?
SEAN: Next question
Tell us something the other doesnâ€™t know about you:
KYLA: Seanâ€™s my best friend.
SEAN: Iâ€™m in love with her.
Have you ever considered being more than friends?
KYLA: Uhmâ€¦I thought we covered this?
Okay, hereâ€™s the lightening round.
Print or ebook?
CD, vinyl or iPod??
KYLA: Yes, no, yes
SEAN: All three
Movies: Chick flick, action, suspense, documentaries?
KYLA: All four
SEAN: All four
KYLA: Really, you like chick flicks
SEAN: Next questions
Jazz, Hip Hop or old school R&B?
KYLA: Jazz and old school
SEAN: All three
Favorite comfort food?
KYLA: Fried chicken
SEAN: Mac and Cheese
Favorite pizza topping?
KYLA: Mushrooms, sausage and extra cheese
SEAN: Pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese is a must
How do you take your coffee?
KYLA: Sugar cookies
Dog person or cat person?
City or Suburbs:
Taxi or Subway:
KYLA: Taxi and foot
SEAN: Taxi or foot, sometimes the subway or I drive
Will you ever get married?
KYLA: Next question