Sunday, August 10, 2014

Creating Characters

The second book in my dark, sexy urban fantasy series, The Shadowminds, comes out one week from today. Dangerous Calling follows the adventures of Cass Weatherfield, the powerful telekinetic whose story began with Twisted Miracles. The talented Veronica Scott, who writes science fiction romance, invited me to participate in a meet-your-character blog hop, and I thought this would be a good way to introduce new readers to Cass. The blog hop includes a set of questions about your main character’s identity (see Veronica’s post about her fascinating heroine--a blind princess!), but I went off the rails and wrote a blog post  instead. Sorry.

For the past week, I’ve been at a family reunion for my husband’s side. Some of them knew about my “night job,” and some of them didn’t, but since I was on deadline, by the end of it, everyone knew why I was glued to my computer every spare minute. When I tell people that I write novels—and more importantly, that I write sexy dark modern fantasy romances—they usually fall into one of two groups. The wow-that’s-fascinating-tell-me-all-about-your-process group, or the ha-ha-you-write-sexy-books-how-cute-I’m-actually-really-uncomfortable group. On this trip, I found myself answering a lot of questions for the Fascinated Group. (I had some interesting conversations with the Uncomfortable Group as well, but that’s a topic for another post.)

A lot of these conversations forced me to think hard about how I create characters, because non-writers tend to ask some pretty probing questions. What if your character has a profession you know nothing about? How can you tell how she’ll react to situations you’ve never been in yourself? How do you make a character feel real? How do you even start? As I struggled to answer these questions, it occurred to me that my attempts might make a good response to this whole meet-my-character thing.

I’m not much of a plotter. My story seeds are always characters, and I typically spend ten thousand words or so getting to know them before I even think about a plot. Those ten thousand words are a chance for me to explore my main character’s past, to imagine what her best future might be, and to identify the ways her world, and she herself, will get in her way as she tries to get there.

It’s the ways she’ll get in her own way that fascinate me the most. Not that I don’t love some murderous external conflict, but to me, the most compelling stories follow an arc of transformative personal change.

Cass Weatherfield’s basic stats are this: She’s a powerful telepath and telekinetic who, when she was still learning to control her powers, caused a fatal accident. It’s haunted her for years, and she’s done her best to completely suppress her powers. The first book, Twisted Miracles, follows her sometimes painful but ultimately redemptive journey to accepting her own powers—and the love she left behind when she rejected them. In Dangerous Calling, now that she’s come to terms with her abilities, she has to figure out how to use them. And to do that, she has to encounter the deeper demons of her personality— her tendency to turn inward to solve her problems, her susceptibility to addiction.

Of course, she won’t be alone. She’ll have a band of friends to help her, all with their own flaws and strengths. All have their own complicated pasts--and some have stories of their own to come.

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