We've all experienced it. Long after we've put down a book, a character stays with us. Rhett Butler, Scarlett O'Hara, Blanche DeBois, the Corleones... the name of the book isn't even necessary because the character conjures up the images.
There are very few authors who can simply pick up a pen (or a keyboard) and develop characters on a par with these. For the rest of us, it means exploring the technical part of writing and not simply depending upon the creative process.
What does this mean exactly, when working with character development?
For me, it means a shelf of reference books to help me develop the characters I need. And in turn, many times this research leads to making the plot richer and more complex.
Here are a few of the books I routinely turn to:
Linda Goodman's Sun Signs: Whether you believe in astrology doesn't matter. Simply reading the personality traits and characteristics of various sun signs provides the basis for some very interesting and diverse characters. Consider a roller coaster with 12 riders; each one reacts to the same ride in a completely different manner. This book has helped me break out of a particular mold for any set of characters.
Linda Goodman's Love Signs: This book takes things one step further by detailing the interaction between two characters. It could be used, as the name suggests, to establish two lovers. Or it could be use in an opposite manner to create an antagonistic relationship between an employer and employee, a parent and child, two siblings, a love/hate relationship. The possibilities are endless.
Building Believable Characters I purchased from the Writer's Digest Book Club and the pages are worn from all the use it gets. It has helped me flesh out physical characteristics, from body shapes and sizes to the color of eyes, skin tones, and off-the-beaten trail descriptions.
Careers for Your Characters was also purchased from the Writer's Digest Book Club. It's a great resource for establishing unique employment and what those forms of employment would expect from the character, the types of personalities suited to those jobs, and how different job types would work together - or against one another.
The Writer's Digest Flip Dictionary is a great resource not just for character descriptions but also for finding the right word in a very unique presentation. Far more than a thesaurus or dictionary, this book can broaden your vocabulary and make descriptions rich and detailed.
Those are just a few of my favorites. What are yours?
Vicki's Key, p.m.terrell's 13th book, was released on St Patrick's Day! Buy it on amazon in trade paperback or Kindle. It is also available for the iPad, Nook, and other eReaders.
I was surprised, enlightened and inspired this morning to find that I had won another blogger award! This one is called The Very Inspiring Blogger Award and was given to me by my author friend Pamela June Kimmell. Thank you, Pam! I will try to be deserving of it!
In keeping with the tradition of The Very Inspiring Blogger Award, I must answer several questions. So I'm hoping to share a little about myself that you perhaps didn't know before. In turn, please share with ME what your answers would be!
I'm Most Creative When...
My Irish muse comes a'callin'.
If I Were a Color, I'd Be...
Yellow. It's the color of sunshine, warmth, cheerfulness and optimism.
At what point does an author cross over the line and betray the trust of their fans?
I know quite a few authors who write under various pen names. One, in particular, I enjoy sparring with online. The persona is that of a testosterone-laden, muscle-building male while I know in fact, it's a petite woman behind the mask. The persona matches the books she writes under the male pen name. But she will be the first to set you straight if you begin to believe the rhetoric, informing you who she is and who the pictures she uses as her avatar really belong to.
But I sat up and took notice this week when I overheard a church community put out the call to pray for another female author's family member. To this church, this author was a male who had developed an entire online alter ego. Turns out, he/she had been blogging about a very ill family member - so ill that the community was ready to raise funds and pray for the member. But there were no family members at all and in real life, this author is single with no siblings.
To me, it came down to simple honesty. Authors write under various points of view, some male and some female, some old and some young, some with completely different religions, backgrounds, culture, and makeup. But it's clear that these are characters, not the author himself/herself.
To me, crossing the line came when the author began to mislead, knowing full well that the audience believed the stories posted on the Internet to be true and factual.
What do you think? At what point does it cease to be all fun and games? When is that line crossed?
p.m.terrell's 13th book will be released this week! Vicki's Key can now be purchased through all fine book stores, amazon and other online stores. It is also available for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other electronic readers. Find out more at www.pmterrell.com.
Those that follow mythology know that psychics have been around since the dawn of man. They've been called many things from witches to clairvoyants. With the introduction of a psychic spy in my new Black Swamp Mysteries series, I am finding the possibilities for plots are limitless.
Join me today as I discuss the real psychic spy program used by our own government. Then leave me a comment and let me know what you think! You'll find me at Pagan Spirits, courtesy of fellow author Erin O'Riordan.
I don't usually talk about my private life. After all, if I talked about it, I could no longer call it private, now could I?
But over the past two weeks, I've undergone procedures that have the power to transform my life.
I was 9 years old when an attentive teacher told my parents that she didn't think I could see the board and I needed my eyes checked. To everyone's astonishment, it turned out to be a minor miracle that I could even find my way to the school. I was instantly fitted with coke bottle glasses that would only get worse as the years passed by.
In the mid 1970's, I began wearing hard contact lenses and in the years that followed, I would try every type of contact lens manufactured. I thought I was seeing just fine with them - little did I know my eyesight was still horrendous but without any correction, I'd become just about as blind as a bat.
In 1996, the retina detached in my left eye. Turned out, my extreme nearsightedness was caused by a thin retina that only became thinner as I grew older. Within hours, I had lost my left peripheral vision entirely and my central vision would often be nothing more than "Vaseline vision" -- like looking at a Monet through a thick fog.
Four years later, my right retina developed a hole. Caught before it became completely detached, the doctors were able to save what little sight I had left in that eye.
My earliest memories of my grandfather were of him sitting in a living room chair, completely blind. His outings consisted of making his way to the back door and following the clothes line to his chair beneath a tree. He'd lived that way since both of his retinas had detached.
My aunt had also gone blind and had spent decades sitting in her living room or bedroom chair, listening to the radio or to the angel who stopped by every day at lunchtime to read to her.
I came to the conclusion it was my turn now.
About two months ago, I was referred to a retinal surgeon who discovered I had recently developed cataracts in both eyes. It turns out, those cataracts were the turning point.
The cataract procedure involved removing the cataract from each eye, similar to the video below. But like the video below, it didn't stop there. Next, the surgeon implanted a toric lense. Smaller than a hard contact lens and designed to correct astigmatism, this powerful lens has given me sight for the first time in my entire life.
I had no idea that grass consisted of blades.
That people's faces had so much detail.
That my collie's fur was more than just black and long but consisted of actual strands.
I had no idea how bright my home was.
Or the mulch in neighbors' yards might have actually been fallen leaves.
I didn't know you could see the actual yarns in carpet.
Or patterns in ceramic tile.
I didn't know pasta like ziti had ridges.
I'd never before seen the true beauty of my angelfish, even though three of them are 10 inches tall.
Or the expression in my Jack Russell's eyes.
For the first time in my life, I can open my eyes in the middle of the night and see the time on the clock face without fumbling around for my glasses.
I can take a shower and see the shampoo bottle.
Read in bed without worrying I'd roll over onto my glasses if I happened to fall asleep.
In the past two weeks, I have been given the miracle of sight.