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Monday, April 14, 2014

Developing Interesting Characters

I'm going to jump ahead a couple of books today and tell you about one of my favorite characters.

Five completed manuscripts sit on my computer right now. One current novel and four eventual. I've probably developed more than 30 characters in the past 15 months. The easiest was one of my first.

In Golden 5, you will be introduced to the White sisters. Five young ladies from Yuba City, CA. Because of the United States' crumbling economy, they are sent ahead of the rest of the family from a friend's house in Minneapolis to a small village in remote northern Wisconsin.

The sisters are nice, sweet girls and vary in age from eight to twenty-four. Katie and Liza are in their twenties, Lori is 12 and Randi is a young tomboy of eight. The character of today's attention is 14-year-old Anni White. The middle sister if you will.

Anni is based on an actual person. Well, I should qualify that statement. The Anni in physical appearance is based on an actual person. Her height, eye color, hair color, and general outward appearance are the same as my muse. However, Anni (my fictional Anni) is the exact opposite of that same muse.

From what I know of the real person, (let's call her the "real Anni") she is wonderful, sweet, beautiful, intelligent and perhaps even a little shy. The real Anni is 18, at least I think she is. Matters not for this post though.

Anni White is 14. If you saw her and her doppelgänger together, you'd say they were twins. That assumption would end the minute Anni White opens her mouth. Her personality could be described as outgoing, and that even falls a little short. First off, Anni knows everything. She's 14, remember? So of course she knows everything. Her anger rises rather quickly, and easily. She has no qualms about pointing out other people's weaknesses, or quirks, or appearance. She's not mean, well perhaps to her sisters she is, she's just direct. Bluntly direct.

Anni's wrath and the main focus of her rage is directed at her sisters for the most part. She considers the older pair, Katie and Liza, "clueless little girls". These two are older, so they see what they are up against in Golden. Three of the four village residents are sweet older people. The fourth resident, one John Smith, scares them. Shaking her head at the older ones, Anni reminds them time and time again that she is not scared of anything. Particularly the gruff and odd Mr. Smith.

The bane of Anni's existence is her younger sisters. Lori is young and very sweet. And very naive to the ways of the world. Any world, much less the dystopian world in which she finds herself. Randi is nothing but a problem for Anni. She's a child, a baby in Anni's mind. At eight, she knows nothing of the real world. Anything that might interest Randi is of absolutely no concern to Anni. Except for the same blood coursing through their veins, they have nothing in common. Anni has no idea how Randi, or even Lori for that matter, will ever live long enough to see fourteen. It's just not possible in her mind.

Here's the crux of this post. I've created Anni White from the shell of a person. I gave her an age, a personality, a meaning to her life. Heck, I even created her sisters for her enjoyment. I gave her a birthdate, a backstory, parents, siblings. I created a set of beliefs that she holds fast to, a moral compass that never wavers, and even her lovely outlook on life that she constantly puts on display.

My sister has read a portion of the rough draft of Golden 5. She's commented several times about what a kick she gets out of Anni White. One of my earliest beta (perhaps alpha) readers even commented on how easy it was for her to envision the sisters, particularly Anni. To state the obvious, Anni is a character. In every sense of the word.

Somehow it was easy for me to envision and create Anni White. I have no idea why. Fast forward several manuscripts to one of the main characters in the second half of my current novel WWIV - In The Beginning. There we meet young Brit McMahon. Like Anni, Brit is fourteen. But she's from a completely different background than Anni. Both 14 and as different as night and day. For some reason, I had a dickens of a time getting Brit properly down on paper. It took me several rewrites before I was comfortable with her portrayal.

I used the approximate same method developing Brit as I had Anni. I was even more experienced at character development by this point. But Brit still didn't come easy. I can't tell you why. And maybe I'll never know the answer. At least I'll have something to ponder in the car each night.


Take care. Remember, reading is fun!


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