Category - Creating Characters

Creating Character Part 1: Who Am I?

Creating Character* Please note: if you're reading this post on Goodreads, formatting may be affected .

Hello all! Today I'm starting a series where I talk about how I create my characters. Granted, I haven't been published very long, and don't have a great many books under my belt yet, but with each one, I delve a little deeper, worry a little less, and listen a little more to that voice in my head that tells me to write what's in my heart and forget the rest. I've had some wonderful comments from readers about my characters, so I thought I would start with the fellas.

For those of you who have read my books, you've probably noticed that I'm very character driven. My stories are first and foremost about the characters and what they go through in order to find, attain, and keep their happily ever after. I'm the same way with my reading. No matter how amazing a plot is, if I'm not able to connect with the characters in some way, I feel kind of disappointed. Even the most vile villain is preferable to a character with all the appeal of a plank of wood.

Sure, not everyone will take a liking to my fellas, but that's okay. We don't always get on with every single person we ever meet. That's just human nature. I do try to get the balance right, and no matter the type of story I'm writing or how bigger than life a character may seem, I always try to make them feel like real people with a good mixture of strengths and weaknesses.

Whenever I start a story, there's always one character that pops into my head first. He's usually my main protagonist, and the story will be a little bit more about him than his love interest. It's usually his point of view you get in the first chapter, and he'll usually be the one who finishes the story (unless it's told from a first person point of view). The first thing I do is start thinking about what kind of man he is. What's his personality like? Is he usually grumpy? Cheerful? What's his temperament like? Is he cool and collected, or is he hotheaded? What sets him off? What sort of things get on his nerves? What does he value? What are his morals like? What kind of food does he like? What's he drink? I ask myself hundreds of little questions. He starts to talk to me and I start to listen. What's his speech pattern like? Where's he from and does he have an accent? Is he well spoken? What's he look like?

There are scores of character sheets out there with countless questions meant to help you get to know your character, but for me personally, I like coming up with my own questions. Sometimes they're random questions that just pop into my head. They may seem irrelevant, but I always end up learning something. This morning I had waffles for breakfast, which made me wonder, whether Hawk would prefer pancakes or waffles. Suddenly I can see Hawk sitting in Joe's cafe with his prerequisite cup of coffee. Joe asks him what he'd like, pancakes or waffles. Hm... Pancakes. Hawk just strikes me as a pancakes sort of fella. Nice big stack with plenty of syrup and some butter. Why not waffles? He wouldn't be too keen on all those little squares hoarding his syrup, and the fact that his syrup is unevenly distributed throughout his waffle would displease him greatly. Yeah, Hawk's a little weird that way. What does that say about Hawk? He has to analyze everything, even his breakfast. Sometimes, unless a certain situation comes up, I don't always know how my fella is going to react.

The moment a character starts forming in my head, I start asking myself all kinds of questions. If I decide he's a detective, I start asking myself what kind? How did he get there? Is he good at it? Is he more physical or more brainy? What's his work ethic like? What's his office like? What social class does he belong to? What sort of people does he deal with on a daily basis? Is he liked? Do folks avoid him like the plague? What kind of gun does he carry? How does he dress when he's on a case?

Look at Stanley Hawk and Bruce Shannon, two very different types of detectives. They might both be a little rough around the edges, but Hawk is clean shaven, well-dressed, well-spoken (for the most part) playful, and went to Harvard for a period of time. He doesn't smoke, drinks occasionally, will always try to do the right thing and by the book. Bruce is gruff, stubbly, smokes, drinks--a lot, has a dry and sarcastic sense of humor, didn't go to college, barely made it out of high school, is street smart, and his language is... well, just as rough. Bruce is very clever, but his manners (or lack there of) attracts far more trouble than Hawk's. If Bruce had been on the case of the Amethyst Cat, things would have turned out very differently. Namely, he would have probably had Remi arrested just to keep him out of the way while he worked things out in his own way, in his own time. Either that or tie him to a chair. Yep, that's Bruce all over.

Okay, I have my character (by now I've also given him a name, but how I name my characters will follow in Part 2), and an idea of his personality, so now I think about what may have happened to him in his life to shape him into the man he is. We all experience a multitude of events throughout our lives both good and bad. Things that affect us deeply. Heartache, loss, hardship, failure, anguish, betrayal, embarrassment, as well as moments of triumph, pride, inspiration, support, bravery, love, and joy. These moments help make us who we are, how we approach others, and how we lead our lives.

Let's take Chance (from The Auspicious Troubles of Chance) as an example. Once I had an idea about the story I wanted to tell and I had Chance standing there with a very basic feel for the sort of fella he was, I needed to know more about him. In his story, I knew he was an orphan. So I asked myself, how he ended up that way. He was abandoned by his parents when he was seven years old. What happened after that? Did he grow up in the orphanage or run away? A year later, he ran away and  grew up on the streets of New York City. He found happiness, only to lose everything to a horrible tragedy caused by a terrible man. He was sixteen. Two tragic events at two vulnerable ages, with no one around to help him see it through. Chance had already been filled with so much hurt, anger, and heartache from what he perceived to be his parents betrayal, he gave into his anguish, feeling he didn't deserve any better than the path of vice and self-destruction he found himself on. He didn't make any excuses for himself, and was perfectly aware of what he was doing. He just couldn't stop himself from doing it.

Loss and betrayal are things that many people can relate to, because most of us have experienced it in one way or another, though perhaps not in this extreme. When someone leaves us, we start to wonder why, and even start to blame ourselves, thinking it was something we did.  We start to think maybe we weren't good enough, that we weren't worthy of this person. So I start to delve into all those feelings, how such a loss would have hurt Chance and how a fella with his personality would have reacted.

Jacky on the other hand, led a perfectly happy--and privileged, childhood with a loving family. His loss happened once he was all grown up. It was no less painful,  but he was in his twenties, old enough to try and make sense of his feelings and what to do about them. He was always a friendly, social guy with a glass-half-full mentality. He fought to find purpose and a way to help others. He wanted to be strong, and dependable for those who needed him.

Another event that would have had a huge influence on my characters is the Great War, either directly or indirectly. Considering the period I write in, one of the first things I think about is: did this fella fight oversees? If he did, was he drafted? Did he volunteer? What did he do there? Where was he posted? How long was he there, how involved was he, how much did he see, and what did it do to him? Even if it's never mentioned in the story, I take it into consideration when I start delving deeper. I don't have to map out his entire military career, just enough to help me figure out why he is the way he is.

Let's go back to Hawk and Bruce. Both the same age, old friends, similar personalities. Both played a part in the war. However Hawk wasn't sent oversees, but helped out Uncle Sam on American soil. The work he did, helped him regain his confidence and made him a stronger man. It was other events that wounded him. Bruce was drafted and sent to France. He was in the trenches at the age of 21. It's safe to say that Bruce struggles with demons even Hawk couldn't imagine, he's just found his own way of dealing with them, not all of them healthy but necessary for him.

My characters, like real people, aren't perfect, even the nicest and most heroic of fellas like Jacky, has his weaknesses, flaws, and less than admirable qualities. They feel frustration, rejection, loneliness, and fear. Danny Brogan from Roses in the Devil's Garden is one of my more troubled and darker characters. He grew on me really quickly. His story's not yet been told, (aside from the part he played in Harlan and Nate's story) but I know that when it happens, some folks might not take to him. However, for all his faults, he will have redeemable qualities. A few folks weren't keen on him, but that may change once they get to know him a little better.

What's happened to Danny is something that many men suffered during the Great War. Danny was young, cocky, eager to begin what he believed would be a great adventure, only to discover the horrifying truth. By the end, he was left broken, alone, and addicted to morphine. He was on the take as a Prohibition agent, but by the time he meets up with Harlan and Nate, he'd done the right thing and had made that choice on his own, putting his own life at risk. With John's help, Danny will overcome some of his heartache, but like with most of my fellas--as in real life, there is no magic cure. Their pain may subside, their demons may be silenced, and their scars may fade, but those experiences will always be a part of them.

The more I learn about my main protagonist, the more I learn about the man who's going to change his life and steal his heart, but we'll get to him in Part 3.

♥  Next Tuesday - Part 2: What's your name, handsome? A look at how I go about naming my characters, behind the names, and the sites I use.

♥  Part 3: Because I Love You, covers our main hero's love interest. So check out July 17th for that post.

If you want a peek into how I keep track of all my heroes and how they're connected to each other, you can check out this post here.

Hope you all enjoyed my little rambling. If you want me to cover anything specific, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, or you can always email me.

x Charlie x

Creating Character Part 2: What's Your Name, Handsome?

black three piece suit

Hello all! Welcome to this week's Texty Tuesday, and the next installment of my writing series, this one covering character creation. If you missed part one, you can check it out here.

Congratulations, it's a boy! Now what do you name him? Coming up with character names can be very tricky, and every author has his or her preferred method, as well as likes and dislikes. Today I'm going to talk about how I go about naming my characters and a few of the sites I use. You can find a few more here.

Here's a list of my MC's to date, their nicknames if they have them, and who they are at the beginning of their stories to start off, so you can get an idea of the types of names I tend to go for. Afterward, I'll explain a little about how I got there.

Stanley Hawk - Pinkerton Detective Remington Trueblood 'Remi' - Tea House proprietor Chester Trueblood 'Chess' - unemployed Bruce Shannon - Private Investigator Jace Scarrett - Ex-bank clerk/Bruce's assistant Harlan Mackay 'Harley' - Prohibition agent Nathan Reilly 'Nate' - Prohibition agent John Flynn - Police Detective Danny Brogan - Prohibition agent Chauncey Irving 'Chance' - Legionnaire in the French Foreign Legion Jacky Valentine - Commandant in the FFL Jonathan Wolfe 'Johnnie' - Legionnaire in the FFL Bobby Haven - Legionnaire in the FFL Alexander Reed - Legionnaire in the FFL Julius Knight - Cabaret performer Lawrence Reinhart 'Lawry' - Cabaret performer Terry Talbot - Cabaret Perfomer Edward Clarence - Executive and heir to the Clarence & Co. Dept. Store fortune Maxfield Clarence - Heir to the Regalis Hotel fortune Albert Harrison - Heir to the Harrison fortune Gabriel Chase - Owner of Midnight Radio Robert Bradley - Mail room Clerk George Fitzpatrick - Writer Noah Baxter - Professor

Things I take into consideration when naming my characters:

♥ The era I'm writing in.Sometimes it's easy to forget that the names we come across today, may not have been around decades ago. I don't start with the year my story is taking place, but the names that were popular the year my character was born. Example: Stanley Hawk appears in The Amethyst Cat Caper in 1934. He's 36 years old. Which means he would have been born in 1898. So I bring up my favorite trusty site of 1000 Most Popular Baby Names of the (insert year here), pick 1890s from the drop down menu, and  go down the list. Stanley is #84.

♥ What kind of fella is my character. So why Stanley? He's a big, rough around the edges, kicking butt detective, shouldn't he have a big, tough guy name? No. Why? Because he wasn't born a big, tough detective. Stanley is a nice guy who loves his mom, went to Harvard for a period of time, loves Chinese food, bad duck jokes, and can pull a nickel out from behind your ear. Being a detective is a part of who he is, but it's not who he is. It doesn't define him. So I go down the list, with a mental image of him and listen to what my gut is telling me. If more than one name seems to fit, I write them down until I have my surname and then start eliminating.

♥ Common vs uncommon names. Since most of my stories take place in either the 1920s or 1930s, the fellas are going to have pretty common names. John, Bruce, Albert, Robert, etc. That allows me to give them uncommon surnames if I so choose. If they have an uncommon first name, then I'll try and give them a common surname. There are a few exceptions, such as Remington Trueblood. I went to Baby Names and through the advanced search, ran a filter that showed me only English boys' names. I started looking for the longest names that would fit a fellow who is the epitome of English high-society. Once Remington popped out, I then had to find him a nickname. Why? Because his father is a pretentious bastard who enjoys to lord his wealth and social standing over everyone, so he would have chosen a name for his son that would reflect that. Despite his upbringing, Remington would not see himself the way others see him. He's sweet, smart, and kind. He would prefer to be called by a nickname. Hence 'Remi'. It's short, sweet, and reflects his true personality. Remi uses his full name much like a shield, to keep people at a distance, but to those he cares about, he insists on being called Remi. This is a list of English boys' names I use quite often when I want a name based on it's meaning.

♥ First names as last names. I'm not a big fan of names I can't easily pronounce, but I am a fan of using first names as last names, which is what I did with my characters Robert Bradley, Noah Baxter, Edward Clarence, Maxfield Clarence, and Albert Harrison. I don't know, but I just like the way they sound. Though you do have to be careful of which names you choose.

♥ Ethnicity. Between 1850 and 1930, about 5 million Germans immigrated to the United States. Between 1820 and 1930, 3.5 million British and 4.5 million Irish entered America. Considering the years these fellas were born in, they would have either migrated with their families as children, or been born in America not long after their families had come over. Bruce Shannon for example, was born in New York City, but his parents were Irish immigrants. Shannon is a diminutive of Gaelic Ó Seanaigh which means "descendent of Seanach". The given name Seanach means "wise", and Bruce for all his grumpy ways, is indeed, wise. This is a fantastic site which allows you to look up surnames either by letter or ethnicity.  Search For is also a great site for surnames. You can look up by letter or by ethnicity.

♥ Inspiration from outside. Back to Stanley Hawk. How did I come up with Hawk? Well, I take my inspiration where I can get it. I was sitting at my desk, and I happened to look over at my DVD collection. My eyes fell on one of my favorite comedies with Bruce Willis:Hudson Hawk. Bruce Willis' character is called Eddie Hawkins and he's the world's most famous cat burglar. He's also referred to as 'the Hawk'. He's sarcastic, a wise guy, and adorable. I didn't think twice. I'm a movie addict, of course I get inspired by movies! So I had Stanley and then I had Hawk. It just fit. That's probably as close as I would get to using a name from a character in a movie, because let's face it, some movie characters are one of a kind, so if you go and name your action character John McClane, you may come across a few problems. Unless your character is somehow related or something. Anyway, I'm just saying be aware of association.

Sometimes I need a name to fit with the story. For example, Bruce is the kind of fella who finds nicknames for people who do something to annoy him. So when Jace ticks him off, the first thing he would do, is call him by a nickname, one that would express his displeasure in true Bruce fashion. So I had to first think of the nickname Bruce would call Jace that would really get under his skin. With Bruce, I figured he would call Jace some kind of girl's name because let's face it, Bruce shares a lot of noirish detective traits, which means he can be pretty oafish sometimes. I went through a list of surnames, trying to find one that could easily sound like a girl's name. I found the perfect one. Scarrett. Bruce's nickname to infuriate Jace? Scarlet.

♥ What name will he go by? It's important that you decide which name your character will go by in your story. Depending on who he is, people will either address him by his first name, or by his surname. I use Stanley Hawk's name in different ways. Hawk goes by the name of Hawk, because as he says, only his momma calls him Stanley. He regards his surname as a nickname, one that gives the right kind of image for his profession. Yes, Remi calls him Hawk, too, but when Remi is upset with him, hurt, or scared, he will always refer to Hawk as Stanley, because being called Stanley triggers an immediate reaction in Hawk, cutting through that tough guy facade right down to his core. It makes him feel vulnerable. Harlan and Nathan are the opposite. When they introduce themselves, they use their full names. Their nicknames are reserved for each other, which fits with their personalities because outside of each other, there are few people they trust.    

Thanks so much for joining me for Part 2, hope you enjoyed it, and maybe even came away with a little something. Next week's Texty Tuesday is Part 3: Because I Love You. A look into our MC's love interest. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line. I'm happy to help!

x Charlie x

Creating Character Part 3: Because I Love You

Hello all! Welcome to the third part of my series on creating character. Here I'll talk a little about how I go about creating the man our hero will ultimately fall in love with. Here's the first part if you missed it: Creating Character Part 1: Who Am I? As well as how I go about naming said heroes: Creating Character Part 2: What's Your Name, Handsome? 

As I mentioned in Part 1, the more I get to know my first hero, the more my second hero starts to materialize. When I got the inspiration to write The Amethyst Cat Caper, I knew I wanted to write a Classic Hollywood movie type story. I had my main hero: Remi, who would inadvertently end up with the amethyst cat-the object sought by our gentleman thief. I also knew my second hero would be a detective, and as I mentioned in Behind the Scenes: The Amethyst Cat Caper, Stanley Hawk started out as a police detective. We soon discovered that the position didn't really fit Hawk, so after a good deal of research, he officially became a Pinkerton Detective.

I had my starting point. Now I had to know what kind of man Hawk was, what kind of detective he was, and how he would feel about who Remi was. I knew that I didn't want Hawk to be like Bruce. To me, Bruce is more noirish. A tough talking, whiskey guzzling, always at the wrong place at the wrong time, gets-into-fist-fights-because-someone-insulted-his-mother type character. Hawk on the other hand, I see sharply dressed as a Cary Grant type character in romantic screwball comedy, with some mayhem added for the fun of it. Getting to know Hawk would help me figure out how he interacted with others, especially Remi.

Obviously, being a Pinkerton--who handled security for many businesses and high society folk, Hawk would have had to deal with plenty of wealthy folks. So I decided to make things a little tougher for him, by making him well-spoken (compared to a lot of the other detectives he works with), educated from the two years he spent at Harvard, and a fella who cares about his appearance, just to start off with. What does that mean? It means that when a job comes up that involves fancy folk, Hawk would be the first one his boss would call on. Much to Hawk's irritation. So, I now knew that he'd be forced to deal with high-society. It made sense that at some point he may have gotten involved with some well-to-do gentlemen. He is, after all, a handsome, cheeky fella, and I'm going to guess that a lot of those young fellas he got involved with were all very excited to be having a dangerous detective in their bed.

Of course, the reality is that Hawk doesn't walk around scowling and pulling guns on people, and he's only dangerous if someone is threatening his life. His job's not exciting either (not before he meets Remi, anyway), and consists of endless paperwork, sitting in his car doing stakeouts for hours on end, following people around, asking lots of questions, and the list goes on. The illusion wears off quickly, and soon these fellas see him for what he really is: just a regular working class Joe. Hawk's experiences with these fellas have him judging Remi before he's even met him, and although some of his assumptions prove to be wrong, there's still a lot of uncertainty and distrust. He thinks Remi's just out to have a little fun, so why the hell not go along for the ride.

I wanted someone who would also help Remi grow as a person, someone who could challenge him and bring him down to earth a little. Remi is used to doing things his way and not being questioned about it. He's been in love once and fooled around a few times, but he hasn't had a serious relationship, so sometimes he forgets what it's like to be part of an equal partnership.

The most important thing is that I put as much work into Hawk as I did Remi. Hawk is his own man, and none of his traits have anything to do with Remi. He has his own likes and dislikes, as well as his own strengths and weaknesses. I thought about Hawk's childhood, how he was brought up, by who, what happened in the war, the kind of man he is, what's brought him to this point in his life, and all those other questions I ask myself when developing any character, and although he compliments Remi, he has to be a fully developed character who is just as strong.

It does you no good to have a fantastic hero, and then the fella he falls for is about as appealing as stale popcorn. They have to bring out the best and worst of each other. Like real people in real relationships, each fella possesses traits that the other either loves or is driven bonkers over. They have to have had their own heartaches, dreams, and demons before ever meeting each other. They will learn to reign in certain parts of themselves, or try harder not to do certain things, but those traits have to have been there in the first place.

Example: Remi has a bit of a temper and is known to blow his top on occasion. This sort of behavior is something Hawk wouldn't tolerate from anyone. Were it not Remi, Hawk would either walk away or give that person a good piece of his mind and let the chips fall where they may. With Remi, he holds his tongue. Depending on the severity of the situation, he'll either talk Remi down with a few kisses, a little cuddling, and some saucy talk, or he will just stand silently to one side with such skill as to almost disappear into his environment. Once it's safe, he will engage the Englishman. Remi's tantrums will either amuse Hawk or frustrate the living bejesus out of him. Why? Because a part of him will always be aware of their differences--mainly their social standings. Just because they're in love, doesn't mean it's easy, and doesn't mean that certain facts can be ignored, but it does mean that each one will do his best to make things work. Of course they'll fight. Of course Hawk will end up sleeping on the couch, and yes, Hawk will give in more than Remi, even if something's not entirely his fault. Why? Not because he's weak, but because he's weighed the importance of that argument and whether it's worth the heartache. Because when we love someone, sometimes we do have to swallow our pride, and be the first to wave the white flag.

When I develop my second hero, I don't create him to merely compliment my main hero. He is his own man with all the various types of traits that make up any other fella. I will think about what I need from him, and how he's going to provide that through his own traits. I'll think about how him being who he is might make things difficult for their relationship.

For Roses in the Devil's Garden, I wanted to sort of work backwards. I wanted an already established couple with a strong relationship who also work together, both Prohibition agents. I knew that with Harlan and Nathan, it wouldn't be about them finding love, but keeping it. Because although they've been together six years and would do anything for each other, it doesn't mean they don't have to fight to keep what they have. They're lucky to have each other and they know it, but they've had to fight tooth and nail for it. The Great War brought them together, and in a way, keeps them together, because they both suffer from PTSD, though in this book, Harley is unaware of the severity of Nate's nightmares, because Nate prefers to suffer in silence, rather than add to Harley's troubles, which in the end, won't be good for either of them. At times, their relationship is unhealthy, and they're aware of it, but what they provide for each other trumps everything else. Nate provides the humor and playfulness that Harley needs to feel like a regular guy. For Nate, Harley provides the safety and security he feels he can't survive without.

We're all drawn to different types of people, and area attracted to different types of traits. Whether it's a sense of humor, a love of the same things we love, or the ability to provide what we feel is missing in ourselves. Our fellas fall in love for a reason. What is it about this fella that has your MC all in a tizzy? Whatever it is, remember he's got to be just as developed as your main man.

Next week: Creating Character Part 4: Mirror Mirror, on the Wall. How I go about deciding my characters physical traits.

Hope you enjoyed this little session. Feel free to ask any questions. What do you feel works for you or doesn't? As a writer or a reader.

x Charlie x

Talking about the THIRDS ensemble cast at Love Bytes Reviews


Hello all! Today for my monthly author spot over at Love Bytes Reviews I'm chatting about the challenges of writing a large cast and the characters of the THIRDS series. Drop by and find out a little more about the making of the THIRDS.

Characters and Their Backstories over at Sinfully

Men & Mischief SA

Hello all! Today I'm over at Sinfully Addicted to All Male Romance for my monthly Men & Mischief author column. I'm chatting about character backstories, including that of our Cheesy Doodle crunching Dexter J. Daley.

What do you think makes a good character? How much do you want to know about your favorite characters, inside their book and outside? Check out the post and comment for a chance to win a Kindle ebook from your TBR list. ♡

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