As an author one of the first things we’re taught is to write characters readers will love, but as a reader I’ve often enjoyed characters who were less than loveable. Most versions I’ve read and seen in movies and on television of the great Sherlock Holmes is he’s a bit unfeeling, he’s narcissistic and at times even a bully, but the character is, if not loveable, he is definitely memorable. Another character many of us love to hate is Scrooge, and what about Darth Vader? For you Harry Potter fans Professor Snape?
When you think of some of your favorite characters in books and film, are they the heroes or villains? Do you enjoy a traditional hero, or do you find yourself aligning with the antihero? We watch a lot of action films, comic books turned to movies, and I love The Joker, Harley Quinn and Deadpool because they are fun and they are a lot bad and a little bit good, and they like to blow stuff up. But it’s often the backstory that makes us fall for a character even if they’re not exactly loveable. One of my favorite movies is Overboard with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russel, I really love those two together. Goldie is a rich chic who lets her ego get in the way of doing the right thing and Kurt Russel gets the opportunity to pay her back but, it backfires and the two fall in love. When Goldie goes back to her rich-bitch world she doesn’t quite fit there anymore. We see her change and grow and become more the person she should be. Once that personality has exploded from the box, it’s like trying to stuff a blowup toy back in the package, it just doesn’t fit anymore, not even when you let the air out.
That’s what it takes to make a great character and as an author, I’m still learning. As a reader and viewer, I have found that any character who makes me feel something no matter their gender, sexual preference, ethnicity or period in history, it makes them relatable. If I can imagine myself as that person faced with those obstacles, that author or director has won me over. Whether I like them or hate them, they have garnered an emotional response and that will stay with me.
My friends and I recently went to the theater to see “Where the Crawdads Sing.” It’s a lovely movie and I’m dying to read the book. The main character is different, she’s not easy to relate to but you admire her spirit and her strength. As you see her striving to make it in a hostile world with only a few kind people to help her, you begin to wonder if you could have done this. At the end of the movie, when you see how her life has come to its end and the final secrets are revealed, there is an understanding, especially for women, that makes it very satisfying and brings the main character to a place of relatability.
Who are some characters that you find unforgettable? Why?
The Elemental series by Brigid Kemmerer, her character Nick Merrick was so well-written that even years after reading this story, he comes to mind as one of the most unforgettable characters.
Nora Roberts J. D. Robb character Eve Dallas and Roarke, broken and put back together, these two are opposites in so many ways and yet the perfect balance for each other. They are crafted as two halves of a whole, yet each is a complete individual. I don’t know how Nora Roberts managed this but she is the master and I can not forget this couple.
Jayne Castle, Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick: the Joneses, no matter what generation or planet they are on, these men and sometimes women of the Jones family have leadership and paranormal abilities to give them strength, family honor and legends, and a weakness to overcome that often turns out to be their greatest strength.
Please share some of your favorite characters.
For my writing friends. I’m adding a list of YouTube videos for you to check out on crafting amazing characters.
I put my writing career on hold for so many years while I wrestled growing boys into independent men. Now, it’s my turn and it’s not as easy as I’d hoped. No one is banging down the doors to get to my books or to demand my autograph. Although I did have a fantastic audience today, I didn’t read my own stories, because they were second graders, and my books aren’t designed for young minds.
Today I joined other illustrious members of our community to go read at our local school for Read Across America. One of my good friends, Ms. Christy, the second-grade teacher, and my neighbor asked if I’d read to her class. She told them I was a famous author. Well, the famous part is stretching it, but everyone is famous in a small town. The children were wonderful and a boon to my flagging ego. They were delighted to learn their teacher was one of the inspirations for my character, Dana the heroine in White Gold. After reading Dr. Suess’ Daisy-Head Maysie and making paper flowers, the kids asked for my autograph and a couple wanted me to come back and read one of my books. I told them I had a short story I’d written for my grandchildren that I could bring. I think that’s what I’ll do.
What a marvelous treat. I was a little afraid, to tell the truth. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to read to young children, even my grandchildren, and I worried I wouldn’t be able to connect. It started out as a favor for a friend, a thing to do to support my community but it became more. Today made me realize how much this community and the people in it inspire me.
As I told her class, Christy along with my sister-in-law Denise and my good friend, Mary, all combined to help me create the character, Dana.
Dana Windley who later becomes mayor of Leeward, is a community leader. She is an entrepreneur, a small business owner, a volunteer for the school and her community. She also does charity work raising money for things like breast cancer and her local firefighters and paramedics squads. Dana would be the one you would see at the school reading to the children, planning events for the community and doing all in her power to support her town, her friends, and her family.
The Leeward Files and The Harrell Family Chronicles are about REAL people, living in a small town just like where I come from. The town of Leeward is struggling to rebuild after several devasting blows. My home has suffered hurricanes, the loss of businesses and our high school, it is a town that was dying but we are doing our best to revive it. Just like the characters in my stories, there are very real people working to see that the town of Aurora, not only survives, but once again thrives. These people, this town, this community of supporters are the inspiration for my stories and what keep me writing.
What makes a character memorable? What makes them a favorite? Or what makes them a character you love to hate?
As a reader there are several authors who have created memorable characters for me. One character who is also part of an unforgettable couple, is Police Detective Eve Dallas of Nora Robert’s J.D. Robb “In Death” series. She and her husband Roark are very different, yet they are the perfect balance. My hope is to one day create characters as awesome as these. What I like about Eve is the fact she is not perfect. Her backstory is tragic, but she is not a victim. Roark isn’t a typical hero. He walks a fine line between the criminal world and legitimate business. Who they are and their pasts often cause conflicts to their relationship, but it is also part of their strength.
Sabrina Jeffries’ Hellions of Halstead Hall series is filled with memorable characters from the grandmother matriarch to the various siblings. While the siblings are nobility, grandmother is not but she’s the lady with the cash and control. Oliver, Lord Stoneville, is known for being cold but as the oldest he’s tried to stay in control of his emotions and his siblings. One of the things I love about Jeffries’ is the way she brings former main characters back to people her stories and add a little familiarity to a new story.
Stephanie Plumb, Janet Evanovich’s accident-prone bounty hunter/bond enforcement agent and Laurel K. Hamilton’s vampire hunter/executioner, Anita Blake are very different yet both memorable characters. They are both action-heroines with tangled love lives. Both authors use humor to diffuse difficult situations and bring light to current topics. While Stephanie never seems to get any better at her job, she eventually accidently succeeds. Anita Blake often fails, at least at first but she is a powerful necromancer and with each story she gains power and strength even as she battles personal problems and emotional struggles.
Will Thomas’ Barker and Llewelyn series is similar in many ways to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and for me, the characters are just as memorable. Barker is a huge Scotsman raised in China with strong religious beliefs, very different from the opium smoking Holmes, yet their detective skills are similar. Barker has ties to the criminal underworld, the Asian community of London, and the has built a reputation as an inquiry agent. He is big, smart, athletic, and wealthy. His partner, Llewelyn is a petite Welshman whose collegiate career ended when he went to prison. He comes to Barker’s agency when he has no other choice. The combination of these two very different characters is what makes them work together so well, and so memorable.
So, what makes a character memorable? What makes a character someone you want to read about over and over again? What characters do you love or love to hate?
In my own writing, I like to create characters that feel real. I want to have them reacting to situations in a believable manner and feel like people you know. Does that make them memorable or lovable? For me, as a writer, there are certain characters I’ve enjoyed writing more than others. Some I want to explore more because I feel there is more to their story. Two of my favorite characters to write in my new series are the grandmothers. One, Grandma Doris/Dodie is a pot smoking former hooker who has been married or shacked up with numerous men. She borders between “cool” grandma and “bad” grandma. The other grandmother, Grandmother Louise was married to one man. She is a Bible thumper, opinionated woman who is always more worried about what other people think than about her family. I think a friendship and rivalry between these two very different women will be fun to write and add to the family dynamics of the Harrell Family Chronicles.
Some of my other favorites include the strong female characters of my first three stories:
Rae Lynn Grimes, Dana Windley and Jenna McKenzie Roberts. These women, their friendship and their battles felt so real to me. As I was writing these characters I felt as if I could reach out and touch them. I hope as readers discover them, they too will come to think of them as friends.
I’d love to hear about some of your favorite characters or what you are looking for in a character.
I’m so excited to welcome my friend and fellow southern American writer, K.B. Davenport to my virtual café. Thanks for stopping by Creekside Café, K.B.
K.B.: Thanks for having me, Sherri! I’m really excited to chat with you.
Sherri: Is Magic in Autumn Springs your first published novel?
K.B.: Yes, it is! I released it in November 2020 through Kindle Direct Publishing. I thought about going the traditional route but ultimately decided to self-publish.
Sherri: I’m reading it right now and I’m enjoying it. It’s a slower pace for me but I adore the way you introduce the characters. Who was your favorite to craft? I’m a suspense writer and I often enjoy creating the villains.
K.B.: Thank you! Glad to hear it! I have to agree, villains are fun to write. They became some of my most emotionally complex and developed characters, now that I think about it. They have a lot to offer in terms of flaws and layers. But I also have talking animals in my story, so I have to say they’re my favorites. Marble the wise cat and Harlan the sassy pup. Harlan is a talking animal and a villain, so writing him was really the best of both worlds. And really, Autumn Springs is itself a crucial character. Creating this fictional place was a bit of a love letter to the town where I went to college and to the Natural State where I was born and raised. I wanted to be sure I created a world that represented how I felt about where I’ve grown up and lived within my life.
Sherri: My town of Leeward is an homage to my hometown as well. I love Marble, she is an amazing character. Animals, like children present a unique perspective to the story. Getting into their minds and seeing the world through their eyes can change a reader as well as the writer.
This may have been your first published work, but you are not a novice writer. I can tell. You are too good for this to have been your first. How long have you been writing? Have you always been a writer?
K.B.: Thank you, I appreciate that! I’ve been writing poetry and fiction since I was a teenager, so almost 20 years now. I’ve written in academic and professional capacities over the last decade or so in my “real life” as well. Writing has always been more than a hobby for me. It’s like a sort of tether to reality. It keeps me grounded or lets me explore, whatever I need. I’ve been a storyteller since I was a kid, too, according to my mom. So, I guess the answer is yes, I’ve always been a writer!
Sherri: It shows. You describe yourself as a romantic at heart and there is a romance in your story, do you consider yourself a romance author? What is the difference between being a romance writer versus other genres?
K.B.: I have a hard time pinning myself to any one genre, but romance certainly plays a big part in many of my stories. Although it may not be in a way some readers are accustomed to. I’ve always been fascinated by Transcendentalist writers like Thoreau and Whitman. Romance has become intertwined and synonymous with nature and spirituality for me. That’s what I aimed to show in my book as well, a sense of longing and nostalgia that transcends companionship and gives reverence to the earth. Almost like being in love with the idea of the world itself. As for the second part of your question, I think being a romance writer requires a big heart and a passion for crafting vulnerable characters unlike any other genre. There is a certain level of pain and pleasure that goes into writing romance, and it takes just the right amount of both to create something truly spectacular.
Sherri: I always thought I was a romance writer but even though I want romance in my books, it often takes a secondary position. Sometimes I shy away from the hard stuff, especially the deeper emotions. My WIP has me crying a lot. I’m so ready to move onto the happier parts.
Is your partner a writer or reader? My husband doesn’t read much anymore but he does a lot of my research and helps me with some of my plot points. I enjoy discussing ideas with him because he gives me a different perspective.
K.B.: Definitely the same for me. Romance is one part of the larger picture. My partner isn’t a writer, but he does enjoy reading my work. He’s an idea man. He helps me work out plot points, too. Partners are great for that, aren’t they? They know you so well that they can connect dots even you may miss. Just don’t tell them that, or they may want their own writing credit!
Sherri: You have a serial you’re working on for Kindle Vella, it looks exciting. Tell us about it.
K.B.: Thanks! I’m excited about it. It’s a lot different from Autumn Springs, but I’m hopeful people will enjoy it. I’m calling it Game the Show. It’s a darkly comic look at Hollywood and the game show scene of the early 1980s. The characters are dramatic and flashy, and there are some steamy romantic moments. It centers around two rival game show hosts who vie for the same coveted time slot as well as the same love interest. A bit of a romantic triangle. There’s some bisexual and gay representation as well. I’m also using it as a platform to discuss some of the more sexist and phobic attitudes of the time. I’m a big fan of old game shows, but sometimes I cringe at the way they refer to women, people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community. So it’s a bit of a satire of that as well. Expect some uncomfortable but hopefully enlightening moments!
Sherri: I grew up watching the 70s and 80s television shows so I’m more aware of what you are talking about but how about younger readers, do you think they will be interested in this series? Who is your target audience? I have to ask myself this question often. When I wrote my Leeward Files series, I was hoping to attract a younger audience, but I’ve come to realize most of my readers are 40 and above even though my characters are mid to late twenties.
K.B.: That’s a great question! It’s interesting to find out who actually reads your work once it’s out in the world. Finding a target audience can be tricky! As a millennial, it feels like I’m straddling generations in some ways. I have close relationships with friends and family who run the generational gamut. I want my work to reflect that. Game the Show may be set in the early 80s, but I think its subject matter will be relatable from contemporary perspectives, especially considering its modern take on problematic social issues. I love historical fiction and seeing behind the curtain, so to speak, so I wanted to incorporate some of that into this project. My hope is that it’ll resonate with early to mid-millennials in America who grew up in a much different political landscape than today, but I want people of all ages and cultures to feel included as well. We’ll see how it goes! I look at writing as an experiment. I love to try new things and see what lands.
Sherri: Do you have any plans for an Autumn Springs sequel or are you writing something different?
K.B.: Yes! I’m currently working on the second book in An Autumn Springs Anthology. I’m calling it Mystery in Autumn Springs. It’s about a young empath and amateur sleuth from up north who has ghostly adventures with her girlfriend during a family reunion in Autumn Springs. I’m also working on a book of southern gothic poetry that I’m really looking forward to sharing more details about soon!
Sherri: Did you say you recently visited New Orleans? I was born not far from there. I went back there after my oldest son was born. We lived about a half an hour from New Orleans. There’s something about New Orleans that you don’t find anywhere else. I bet you found a lot of inspiration for your gothic poetry.
K.B.: Yes, we just visited New Orleans a couple of weeks ago for the first time! That’s interesting you lived near there! You’re so right. It really is a different world there. I definitely feel inspired, so much so that I spent some time there writing in our hotel room. I couldn’t help myself. It’s such a historically rich and vibrant place. Even with all the trials the community has faced, they still thrive. It’s encouraging. We stayed at the edge of the French Quarter near Armstrong Park and the Treme, so we got a good mix of touristy things and local culture. I can’t wait to go back. We’re thinking about visiting again for Jazz Fest this fall. And, yes, I’m absolutely using the experience for my poetry! The architecture alone was the perfect inspiration for gothic romance and drama. I loved it.
Sherri: I hear you like to cook, are you a fancy chef or do you prepare family recipes. I raised six sons and worked in fast food, so, most of my cooking has always been get it out quick. With my sons grown and gone, I like to experiment. I’m an avid Food Network watcher but my husband is more of a meat and potatoes guy, but he’s reforming. Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?
K.B.: That’s great! I think it’s fun to experiment and to try new things in the kitchen. I love to cook. I learned how to cook for my family when I was a teenager. My parents didn’t really care for cooking, so I took it on myself to save us from frozen meals and canned chili. I have to admit, I’m mostly a comfort cook. Fried chicken, pork chops, mashed potatoes, tacos, stir fry, breakfast sandwiches, cinnamon rolls. But my partner and I try new recipes fairly often. We recently made a tres leches cake that was delicious! One of our favorite meals to make is pizza from scratch. I roll a mean thin crust. I’ve made a lot of breads since the start of the pandemic, like most bored home cooks. Here’s a recipe for a citrus bread I made when I ran out of ingredients for banana bread!
Glazed Citrus Bread
For the batter:
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp water, more if needed
Pre-heat oven to 350. Prepare a standard loaf pan with butter and flour.
In a large mixing bowl, combine orange juice, lemon juice, buttermilk and melted butter.
In the same bowl, mix in baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, beaten egg and vanilla.
Mix in flour until all ingredients are combined. Do not over mix; the batter should be light so the bread stays soft snd fluffy.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven. Pour on glaze, making sure to cover all of the bread. Glaze should melt evenly and cover the sides of the bread as it cools snd separates from the pan. Cool for at least an hour. Enjoy!
Sherri: Do any of your hobbies, life experiences or acquaintances show up in your stories?
K.B.: Absolutely! While I’m not as much of a green thumb as Damian in Autumn Springs, I love gardens and being in nature. I grew up visiting a lot of watering holes and going on long drives through the Ozarks, so I love to use those scenic experiences in my writing. Hot Springs and Eureka Springs, Arkansas are two big influences in my work. I wanted to pay homage to their natural beauty. Also, I’m a TV buff. Game shows, sitcoms, live events—there’s always been something really fascinating about the way television operates to me. I figured I should put that to use in my writing, so that was sort of the genesis for Game the Show. In terms of people, I feel like most of my characters are composites of a lot of different people I’ve met. While I don’t want to use any one person as direct inspiration for a character, of course, I will pick certain aspects to infuse in my work. Really, I feel like every character I write has a little bit of myself included, too.
Sherri: If you liked this interview with K.B. Davenport, follow him on social media and check out his book Magic in Autumn Springs.
An independent Southern American writer and designer, K.B. Davenport loves reading and reviewing books by other indie authors. He writes cozy supernatural tales and dramatic stories with LGBTQIA+ themes. K.B. also designs book covers and promotional graphics. He lives with his handsome partner, loves to travel and really wants a pet.
A picturesque small town. A budding romance. A mysterious grimoire.
Welcome to Autumn Springs, a woodsy southern hamlet full of charming folks and scenic beauty. Meet Damian Baxter, a self-professed homebody who works diligently as a librarian at Autumn Springs College. He spends his evenings in his cozy Victorian home on Starry Night Way reading and curling up with his cat, Marble.
After he unlocks his grandmother’s grimoire, Damian begins a magical journey he never could have imagined. With his trusty feline friend by his side, he trains for an incoming threat from a reclusive neighbor and the most powerful dark witch in town, Elias Robicheaux.
Will Damian be able to protect his uprooted life while managing his busy job and a new romance with Bartley O’Dowd, a handsome Irish transplant with a secret of his own? Come along for a moonlit hayride and discover the mystery and magic in Autumn Springs.
From my earliest Bible study, I remember wondering why God didn’t want man or woman to know things. Why would he care if we ate from the Tree of Knowledge? Why shouldn’t we know what God knows? As an adult I’ve learned things that were once outside of my tiny sphere of knowledge and experience. Things that I cannot NOW unknow. Not all were the horrors of people’s mistreatment of other people, though, that was devastating to learn. Some of what I had to face were my own prejudices based on my limited understanding. The hardest thing to unknow is your own failings as a human being.
Growing up in a small town I was insulated from many of the world events, and I was secure in my tiny bubble that this was what the world was like. Like a tiny child who is loved and protected, my understanding of the world was limited to what I could see, feel and hear. Over the years my tiny bubble has grown to encompass a larger world and hopefully a greater understanding. I have experienced the world through life events, the media, entertainment and relationships. Each of these contacts have brought with them a different point of view, a new set of questions and a widening of the world I’d previously known.
As a writer, I’m constantly seeking to expand my characters’ base of understanding but also create in them their own tiny bubble. Every character has to deal with a personal lie in order to experience growth and change, which brings about story. Exploring backstory, watching real people and studying psychology have allowed me better understand what a character will do and how they will react to certain circumstances. Yet even as I try to step out of the story, much of what I write is filtered through the lens my own truths, my own tiny bubble.
A somewhat bizarre conversation with my teenaged grandchildren over Easter opened my eyes to another perspective that I’d previously missed. It is amazing and frightening how much they know and understand at their young ages, more than I do in my advanced years. There have been things I’ve learned that I wish I could unknow because the knowing changes me and not always for the good. While there are somethings I’m thankful to have untangled; there are even more that the knowledge of does not bring me comfort. It has made me realize that perhaps God didn’t want us to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, not because he didn’t want us to know the things he knows but that he didn’t want us to be burdened with that knowledge.
My grandchildren impressed me with their knowledge of the world’s hurts. Their comprehension of the cause and effect trauma and abuse has on a person, is even greater than my own after years of study and life experience. It makes my heart hurt that this knowledge is part of them already, for it will color how they view the world. We cannot unknow something we’ve been exposed to. We can choose to ignore it and call it a lie but the only person we’re deceiving is ourselves. Like the characters I write about, some have seen or experienced some of the ugliness in the world, others are aware through friendships and relationships, each reacts from their sphere of knowledge, their tiny bubble of understanding. As writers, we hope to give readers a new way of experiencing the world without having to go through all of the trauma and drama themselves, open your heart and mind, READ.
When I wrote Chrome Pink Billy was just Rae Lynne’s bossy older brother.
He’s had a few bit parts in other books, but I never really stopped to think about who he was as a character.
Working on Red Steel, I had to learn more about who Billy Grimes really was. What made him tick. Why did he act and react they way that he did? Somethings were obvious as they tied in with Rae Lynne’s story, especially their mother leaving when they were so young. What else would affect him, carve him into the person he is?
My youngest son, Blake is a volunteer firefighter. A few months ago, knowing I was going to be working on Red Steel, I asked him about giving a workshop for my writer’s group on being a firefighter and first responder. As he spoke, I got a clearer picture of my character Billy Grimes and he became my muse for Billy.
I often use my friends and family to help me better understand my characters. One of the fun things about writing is taking a little bit from people you know and throwing all those bits and pieces into a blender on high and add in a stray thought or idea and wham, you have a character. I tease Blake about being the muse for Billy, I think he’s okay with the idea but then, he’s not read the book (insert evil laugh).
There is a lot about Billy Grimes that fits my son, but he is still a fictional character. There are other times that one of my other sons or one of their friends gives me an idea for the character. While Blake is definitely the body type for Billy Grimes…okay y’all, no drooling over my baby son, he’s married and she’s crazy, just ask her, she’ll tell you…there are things about my son I don’t want to know and things I can’t know because he probably doesn’t know them about himself. That is one of the powers of fiction, being able to know your character’s thoughts, desires and deepest fears. So, while Blake may have inspired Billy Grimes, please do not confuse the character with the real-life person. As his wife will tell you, Blake is no gourmet cook and while he may be great at taking care of his family, the one who is always trying to feed everyone is his wife Katelynn.
Katelynn asked me if she was in any of my books. It’s funny, I didn’t make a conscious choice to fashion Tracy Harrell after Blake’s wife but after she asked me, I thought about the character and realized without even trying, Billy’s love interest was a lot like my daughter-in-law. She’s tough, beautiful with that Katherine Hepburn girl next door quality, and she’ll go toe-to-toe with Billy, law enforcement, her boss and her family. She is a no non-sense woman, a reporter, which is really close to what Katelynn does since she is an awesome photographer (check out her website at http:katelynnhollisterphotography.com/ ). Tracy is a modern woman who has had to work hard and fight to get where she is. She doesn’t back down. So, yes Katelynn, you really are in my book.
Billy is a bit of a lady’s man, all the women old and young seem to have a crush on him except Tracy and his friend Brenda, the paramedic whom they teasingly call Blade. While Tracy is attracted to Billy, she isn’t going to give him a chance. If he wants her, he’ll have to work for it. Blade is in love with her husband while she thinks Billy is a charmer, she doesn’t pay his flirting any mind. Billy likes them more because they are immuned to his charms.
So there you have it, my inspiration behind my characters for Red Steel.
In most stories there is more than one character. Even in
Tom Hank’s Cast Away, Wilson, the
soccer ball became a secondary character in the story. He didn’t talk much but he
was an important part of the story. In some stories the weather, as in The Perfect Storm or even an animal as
in Jaws may be secondary characters
or even the antagonist making it a main character. The shark in Jaws was definitely one of the
antagonists in the story.
But what about Holmes and Watson? Watson is the narrating
character and we often see and feel things filtered through his point of view,
but he is still a lesser main character or secondary character. It is not his
adventures but Sherlock’s. Yet without Watson to humanize the story and give
the reader insight, we would not understand Holmes as quiet as well and if
Holmes was narrating his own story it would be over much too soon because he
would leave out a lot of the mundane parts that we need to understand the full
Our secondary characters’ role is to support the MC (main
character). Often, it is through their relationship with the secondary
character that we truly see the MC. As with Holmes and Watson, he is brisk and unaffected
by tender emotions and yet whenever he fears he will lose Watson, he tries to
be or do better, at least that seems to be the more modern portrayal of
In a series, many of these secondary characters may already be
established. In my Leeward Files series, many of the secondary characters have
been main characters in other stories or will have their own story at a later
date. That is important to remember while writing a series, even if they are
not on center stage, if they are mentioned in your story, they need to be true
to their character/personality. Doing a character sheet for all of the important
characters in your series could save you headaches later. Keeping your
character sheets current, as in noting when they appear in other books, note
changes. One thing Marie Force mentioned in the Romance Summit was to reread
your work, especially if you are writing a series. Keep a file noting where
your Characters are mentioned, when and where, cross reference. Marie does a
spread sheet. I’m going to try that but I’m old fashioned, I like having it on
paper in a notebook where I can reference it. Of course, I have four novels and
she has thirty or forty, a big difference.
As you are filling out or planning your own character
sheets, or whatever you call them, think about how the secondary character
relates to the MC. How does he/she help the person achieve their goals or keep
them from achieving their goals. Even a well-meaning friend can be an obstacle
if their fears or prejudices cloud their judgement and your character allows it
to influence them. Example: The best friend’s fear of failing gives him
negative views of what might happen, so he expects the worse. He cautions his
friend not to take risks, for fear he might fail. He might also be afraid he
won’t and leave him behind.
This isn’t the secondary character’s story. He or she may
have a stake in it, but this is the main character’s battle/journey. Be careful
not to make it about the secondary character’s needs or wants. This is
where it gets tricky, the MC can be influenced by the other character’s needs
and wants, it can offer conflict even, but don’t let it take over the story.
In Charlotte’s Web,
the story is about Wilbur the Pig but Charlotte the spider plays a huge role in
how we see Wilbur. It is not her story. Even when Charlotte knows she is dying,
she uses the last of her energy to help Wilbur and he in turn saves her babies.
Charlotte is the only spider I’ve ever loved but that’s my story and not
relevant here. She rallies all of the farm animals to Wilbur’s cause, helping
him to survive. She is an important part of the story, but she isn’t the main
character, it isn’t her story. The children, the farmer, everyone is secondary
to Wilbur and yet it is through their love, friendship and determination that
we see more than just a pig.
Hierarchy of characters:
Now this depends on genre and point of view.
A narrator could be a secondary character or the author, in
most genre fiction such as romance, mystery and suspense, it is the point of
view character who is also the main character. Since I write suspense with
romantic elements and read romance, mystery and suspense thrillers, I’m going
to use what I know.
Main Character (s): Point of view character, whose story is
it, usually in genre fiction this is the person telling the story or living the
story. Also, in genre fiction you may have more than one point of view
character and two main story lines that converge. In my suspense thriller I
have three story lines that will converge into one, more like twine around each
other until they get tangled but that’s a different lesson.
Secondary and tertiary characters have degrees of
Billy, my MC is a firefighter, his captain maybe an
important secondary or tertiary character depending on what role he plays. He
will be a named character so that makes him secondary. Some of the other
firefighters and paramedics may be referred to as the new guy or the old man,
the red head or the blonde. If they don’t have an important role and they are
just a place holder or body doing a task, they don’t need a name.
Some of my secondary and even tertiary, characters have been
in other books, they were MCs or secondary characters, even if they don’t play
a big role in this book, because they were named prior, I may use their names
here because they are recurring.
You don’t have to do a character sheet for every character
or any, really, but it helps me write faster to do my most important
characters. My main characters and their most influential cast members. I hope
this helps. Good luck with NaNoWriMo and remember, you can use these methods
anytime, you don’t have to wait for NaNo to get prepared.
Relationship with MC
how they relate to the MC):
Hopes and fears
(especially how they relate to the MC):
a plot driven story or a character driven story someone or
something has to be doing the action, at least in most stories. It might be
different in a literary novel, but I would think something, or someone has to
move the story from beginning to end.
brief explanation, plot driven is
all about what is happening, and the characters are secondary to the story. In character driven stories, it’s more
about the character’s reaction to what is happening.
people feel the need to know everything about a character before starting. Many
fill out questionnaires or fact sheets about their characters before they start
writing. I’ve tried to do these too. I’ve done fact sheets, interviews, and
other detailed character analysis but I spend so much time trying to figure out
all of that information that I can’t write. Then I feel so walled in that I’m
unable to write.
has to write however it feels natural to them. It is one of the most important
lessons I’ve had to learn. I can’t write the way my friend or mentor does, I’d
love to but it doesn’t work for me. I cannot write the way Nora Roberts does
but wouldn’t that be fantastic. I have to be me. Like anything else we do,
whether cooking or folding clothes or writing, we have to do it the way that fits
this isn’t the best time to be a pantser. I find that with writing quickly, as
in 50,000 words in a month and writing a series, I need a little more structure
than I’ve previously employed. Because I don’t want to waste a lot of time
thinking when I should be writing, I took a few weeks in October and started
planning my novel, Red Steel. Over the years I’ve tried plotting, outlines,
graphs, channeling the muse, seances, okay, maybe not seances but you get it,
I’ve tried different methods of planning my novels. I’ve also filled out
numerous questionnaires, charted my character’s birth sign, gone on Pinterest
to find photos of my character, studied the different personality books, and
don’t get me wrong, these methods work. I’ve read the authors that employ these
methods and for them, they work. BUT they don’t work for me.
class I have taken, each method I have tried, every plotting technique, chart,
graph, outline, etc. has taught me a little something. Not just that I’m crazy
and a glutton for punishment. So here is what I have learned, my trick to
planning my novel and especially my characters. I use two things: index cards
(I prefer colored cards, but I have been known to color code my own) and sticky
notes (again color coded).
colors allow me to separate facts into character, story, place, and details.
characters: on my index cards I write a
few facts as I decide them. Maybe I know my guy is African American, but I
don’t know how tall he is. Maybe that doesn’t matter or maybe he’s too short to
reach something or has to duck to keep from being hit by a ceiling fan. Now I
have a visual. I write this on my character notecard. I like the note cards
because I can change it and I can carry it with me because I write on the go. I
carry a laptop to work and I have an office at home so having it portable is
important to me. It may not be as important to you.
post-in notes/sticky notes are a great way to write one or two lines of facts.
You can brainstorm in the beginning before you start and then as you write, you
can decide, this isn’t working, let’s move this around or rethink this idea.
Maybe the idea needs to be thrown out all together. I write out character
names, a few details, maybe hair and eye color, job, when they appear in the
story, why they show up. One of my characters is a reporter. Her job is usually
fluff pieces about what’s happening in the community, the art gallery opening,
the local charity bike-athon, but she gets wind of a real news story and starts
trying to get the scoop. She shows up at fires, at a murder dump site, etc. She
puts herself in danger to get the story and becomes a nuisance to the local firefighter
who is falling for her. So, another post-in note would include when that
relationship heats up and when his girlfriend shows up to mess things up.
know certain things about them, and especially since I’m writing a series, I
have lived with these people for several years now. Unlike some series where
one or two characters is the main focus and they grow and develop over time, my
novel focuses more on a place with assorted characters taking stage. From the
first to this being the fifth book, there is less than a year between them so
there hasn’t been a lot of time for growth and development. There have been a
few circumstances that made the characters grow up in a hurry but when there is
fast growth, too often there is a reversion to old patterns. So in trying to be
true to my characters, I have allowed a few set-backs.
you start writing, what do you need to know about your character.
is important to the story. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to think of things
that won’t matter later or that you can discover as you write. If you like to
fill out these charts, fine, do it. There is no ONE way to write.
Goals and External Goals:
do they think they need and what do they need?
I’ve used to help with character development
Understand Me II by David Kersey
Character ARCS by K M Weiland
Emotion Thesauraus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression