Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Anatomy of a Book – Creating Characters

So far I’ve talked about where story ideas come from, naming characters, story situations, and title choices. Scroll down for more of this blog series on how I put a book together.

Photographs can be inspirational.
Characters are actually created on the page as you write; there’s just no way to get around it. How you describe them; the clothes they wear; the way they speak, think, act and react; the decisions they make, integrity they show and a thousand other things, all add to the impression. It’s an ongoing process that doesn’t stop until the story ends.
You can get a head start, however, with the use of a character chart. The more details you fill in for your people, the easier it will be to get inside their heads as you put them on the manuscript page. Of particular importance are the goals and yearnings of your main characters as these often drive a story forward.

More inspiration...
Having an easily accessible chart in a computer file, or printed out and posted above your desk, can save time and trouble when you need to remember a character’s hair and eye color or pertinent features. It will also make it easier to keep their actions and emotions consistent throughout the book.
I normally fill out complete details for my heroine and hero; the better I can see them in my mind’s eye, the better they seem to translate to the page.  I also do at least partial charts for the villain (if any) and secondary characters who may have important roles.
Take a look at this example for the heroine of my next Italian Billionaire book, "The Amalfitano's Bold Abduction":
Name: Dana Marsden
Hair: auburn, long, wavy
Eyes: brown with a dark gray outer ring
Description: tall, graceful, strong
Features and Marks: Has a tattoo of a boy on a dolphin
Attitude: Take charge, almost overconfident. She gets along well with men, though she considers most of those she works with Neanderthals. Swims for exercise, could have been a champion.
Occupation:Policewoman/traffic cop, though she’d like to make detective.
Personality:Out-going. She was brought up with three brothers, feels she knows too much about men to ever fall in love with one, refuses to become dependent upon or subservient to a man the way her mother was with her father.

Flaws:Too self-sufficient, too independent, declines to acknowledge her softer side.

Cares about: Her family, her job, animals, children, and the right of people, particularly children, to live without fear.

Goal, External: To escape from the situation she’s in, to best the man who holds her, to be free of his control and her unwanted reaction to him.

Goal, Internal To relax, take it easy, accept and enjoy life. She’s been sent on vacation because she’s too in-your-face, too intense about her job. She is too hard on drivers who might be a danger to children, actually broke the arm of a man who was driving drunk with his preschool son in the backseat.

Yearns for: Acceptance as she is by a man she can respect.

Here is an blank character chart to be copied for use:
Character Chart
Inspiration of a different kind.
Features and Marks:
Cares about:
Goal, External:
Goal, Internal:
Personality Flaw(s):
Yearns for:

Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.

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