Exploring the Ins and Outs of Character Development

Moonday Mania

a blog on the craft of writing

Jordan K. RoseToday I have guest blogger Jordan K. Rose. I met Jordan through my Twitter party thrown by Brinda Berry and had to check out her book, Perpetual Light. Right away I was caught by the premise. If you would like to see the killer trailer, click HERE to go to the post where I shared Jordan’s trailer. It rocks! And don’t forget to leave a comment for Jordan and enter into her drawing for an e-copy of Perpetual Light.

Exploring the Ins and Outs of Character Development

Hi Jessica. Thanks so much for having me on today. I thought we’d talk about character development. There is one thing I know for certain: I am a character-driven writer.

I don’t profess to be a master of any part of writing. I’ve only just begun my writing career. Every day I continue to grow in my skills as a writer. I learn more and more with every draft I write, class, conference or meeting I attend. Each book I read gives me an opportunity to hone my own skills. Though, I’ll admit when my mind is “stuck” in writing mode, reading is not as pleasurable.

When I read, I like to fall into the story, completely submerge myself in the characters’ world. I want to wonder why they’ve decided to do something or what will happen because of that decision. I want to be in the action with the characters.

I don’t want my “writer mind” to pull me away from the story because I’m not “in the character.” But this does happen, when I’m not experiencing the action with the character, when the story is being told to me instead of shown.

I don’t need to be told the heroine is frightened or the hero is angry. I need to feel their emotions so that I can empathize with them, worry with them, want or need vengeance, too. I want to love the hero and experience his love for the heroine just like she does.

How do we do this? How do we make a reader feel these very points? It’s not just simply by describing the feeling of love at first sight- quickened heart rate, flushed cheeks, hitched breaths. It’s knowing how your characters will react in every situation.

Simply understanding the body’s autonomic responses in fight or flight situations is not enough. We as writers must clearly know how each specific character would react to each situation. That’s what makes the difference. Then, we must know how they grow as people throughout their journeys.

I admit I struggle on the growth piece. It’s why I’m very, very happy to have a critique partner. Kat points out where my characters need to mature in themselves otherwise they become stale or worse, annoying.

Right now I’m working on two different storylines for two completely different characters. Eva Prim and Lucia DiComano. These are two women who could not be more different. Eva is a vampire. Lucia is a slayer, albeit one who’s not entirely happy with her lot in life. Eva wants friends and will do, has done and is doing some bizarre things to acquire them. Lucia has plenty of friends, is trusted, well-liked and respected.

Both women lack confidence in certain areas of their lives, just as you and I do. But there are very few moments when either would react in the same manner. Eva is headstrong and will charge fearlessly and blindly into any situation without concern for the outcome. She, as she’s been told, has no ability to be strategic or foresee a realistic outcome.

Lucia plans, is hesitant, wants to know what might happen and how and what could go wrong and why. She does not plunge into anything for which she has not prepared. She is actually skittish about things. She worries and avoids things, if she can. She’s spent the last three hundred fifty years avoiding her destiny. She might be considered a procrastinator.

Now, knowing what you know about these two women can you see how they’d respond completely differently in any given situation? Eva is prone to act first, think later or rather explain and hope someone bails her out. Lucia will over-think to the point of putting herself in dire straights.

It’s crucial that we as writers understand each nuance of our characters. That’s not to say we don’t learn as we go. I learn new things about each character as their stories develop, but I know without a question in my mind what response or reaction would be completely out of character for any of them.

Just a few weeks ago I learned that the man I thought was the antagonist of Eva’s story is not that at all. In fact, he’s a good guy. Shocked. That’s how I felt. But even with this new information he still behaves in exactly the same way as before. He’s still strong and centered, an alpha in his own right. His personality comes across very clearly in the book because I know who he is deep inside.

Have you ever had a character show you who they really are? Did it surprise you? Change your story mid-stream?

Would you love to read Jordan’s book? Ask a question or leave a comment and one lucky person will win an e-copy of Perpetual Light.

Perpetual Light

Fate is cruel. Especially when the one you’ve sworn to love for all eternity, the very soul who changed your destiny is the last person you should trust. 

After more than three hundred years of running, Lucia Dicomano must make a choice. 

Perpetual Light by Jordan K. Rose

Forced to take her place as a Pharo of Redemption, the divine slayer needs to master her forgotten powers. Lucia turns to Vittorio, the one vampire she’s failed to deliver from eternal damnation. But overcoming smoldering remnants of love, lust and anger aren’t their only obstacles. 

Samuel, who may know Lucia better than she knows herself, hunts her with a fervor stoked by a thousand years of vengeful hatred. His plan—capture and enslave the weakened Pharo then take control of her elusive power.  

Can Lucia trust Vittorio long enough to reclaim her powers? Or will she have no choice but to kill him and battle Samuel alone?

BIO: After trying her hand at many, many things- from crafting and art classes to cooking and sewing classes to running her own handbag business, Jordan finally figured out how to channel her creativity. With an active imagination and a little encouragement from her husband she sat down and began to write, each night clicking away at the keys with her black Labrador, Dino curled up under the desk. A few short years later she’s entered the publishing arena with no plans to ever turn back.

Jordan’s a member of Rhode Island Romance Writers, as well as RWA National, and the New England (NEC), Connecticut, and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FFnP) Chapters. Find Jordan on her website at www.jordankrose.com.

Follow her tweets on https://twitter.com/#!/jordankrose and Friend her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jordankros

Her first book, Perpetual Light, is available on Amazon’s Kindle from Crescent Moon Press. Click HERE to go to Amazon.


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10 Comments

Filed under Moonday mania, writing craft

10 responses to “Exploring the Ins and Outs of Character Development

  1. Great advice on character development, Jordan. Yes. My characters talk to me. When I’m on the balance beam, they’re in my head. When a scene isn’t right, I have to go to a quiet place in my head [hard to find sometimes] and become the character. Think like the character. Visualize. And, BAM! I hit the realization wall that the reason a scene doesn’t work for me is because my Author Voice tromped on the character’s tootsies.

    LOVE your book cover and story premise, Jordan.

    Thanks, Jessica, for bringing me another writer to follow.

    • Hi Gloria.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Isn’t it amazing how we can’t force our characters to do something other than what they want to do? I love to hear about other writers having to let go and let the characters tell their story. I’m so glad you like the cover and premise of Perpetual Light. Take care, Jordan

  2. Hi Jordan! *waves*

    I know what you mean reading not being pleasurable while in writing mood. I’ve spent time there 🙂

  3. I’m with you Jordan! Before I was an educated writer, I would know that a book wasn’t pulling me in, but I wouldn’t know why. Now I can identify the things that bother me. Excessive head hopping, lack of character depth and telling are just a few of the things that an author can do to throw a reader clear of the story. Knowing your characters and showing their feelings helps big time!

    • HI Jessica.

      It’s funny that when a story is really good and sucks you in, you don’t even notice or think about the technical points of writing. You just follow the story zooming through page after page. I’m taken a number of classes where one of the lessons was to study the writing style or the technical aspects of a book. But when I read a book I enjoyed I always forgot to do it or started and then stopped because I was so engrossed in the story. That’s a dream of mine- to write a story that’s so well written no one can stay focused on the principles, etc. They just keep reading. 🙂

  4. Jordan, fantastic blog! I love, love, love your qualifiers at the beginning because it’s so true…we can never stop learning the craft. I think the better story is a character-driven story and your insight into achieving that deeper character is just great. Thanks.

    • Hi Marne Ann. Thanks so much for coming by. I’ve listened to lots of writers who say they’re plot or goal driven. But I don’t think I could write a story that wasn’t character driven. Doesn’t the character’s response, expectations, desires, goals, quirks, etc, etc, etc determine the direction the story takes? I have to be character driven. Nothing else makes sense. 🙂

  5. Jordan,

    Great post, and I couldn’t agree with you more! I love stories that are character driven. You are absolutely right when you say that a reader gets more involved in the story if they feel the character’s emotions. At least that’s true for me. I love to fall in love or hate with the characters I’m reading about.

    • Hey Sandy! As a reader I want nothing more than to be completely absorbed in the story. So much so that I can’t stand to put it down. That’s exactly what happens with character driven stories filled with lots of emotion. Good to see you. JOrdan

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