Developing My Characters

My first reviews for Blue Violet have been coming in lately, and so far feedback frequently centers around my characters. Here are a few excerpts from reviews:

“The characters are flawed enough not to be irritating, particularly Ellie, who is an ideal heroine – strong, stubborn and loving.”
– Kirsty

“I grew really attached to all the characters, and I love all of them.”
– Cara

“What IS different – and most refreshing – about BLUE VIOLET is Ellie Aubrey. Where TWILIGHT’s Bella is weak, clumsy, and insecure, Ellie is strong, confident, and courageous. Bella is the perennial damsel in distress, but Ellie is a heroine, leading her people, teaching them, and risking everything to save them from destruction. I admire Ellie. She is exactly the kind of young woman that can inspire teen readers to be self-confident and brave.”
– Kathy, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer

I’ve had several readers ask me if a character is modeled off of a specific person, or even off of myself. My answer is yes… and no. No one character is entirely me or entirely someone I know. But there are bits and pieces scattered throughout.

I will admit that a bit of myself can be found in every single character in some way or other. Sometimes it’s very much me. For example, I am naturally introverted. So when I write Adelaide I put that aspect of myself into her. Any time I mention a character liking Star Wars, reading, running, skydiving, or chocolate… that is 100% me coming through. Sometimes a character displays a characteristic that I wish I had. Ellie, for example, has an innate sense of self confidence. I frequently have to fake mine.

Many of my characters have small parts of people I know in them. For example, Ellie is strong because she has an optimistic and open personality. Both of my two closest friends from high school and college have this quality, and it’s something I’ve always admired in them. Griffin has a very deliberate and sometimes cautious personality, which is a little bit my husband, and a lot my son. Another trait I find endearing.

I’ve heard that some authors will map out their character entirely before writing a book. They’ll answer a series of questions that helps them to determine every aspect of that character – background, history, personality, looks, etc.  I don’t tend to do this. However, I will keep track of little details – nervous habits, funny preferences for foods or movies, anything I’ve mentioned along those lines so that I keep those things unique to the character. Sometimes, if I’m struggling with a character, I will do a little question and answer time just to get my imagination going. But most of the time they develop fairly organically.

When I read I tend to prefer scenes that are heavy with character development and character interaction. Consequently, these also tend to be my favorite scenes to write. I guess that’s coming through. I’ve been so thrilled to received feedback that people love my characters. I hope to continue to write compelling characters in my next books!

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