By Kayla Bulster
Contemporary YA suspense
Date Published: August 9th, 2016
Publisher: Anaiah Surge
Novel Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31349472-sunrise-underground
Desperate to reclaim the last item she has of her family, Tilly chases her rescuer into the sewers where she discovers a secret society of ninjas. Through training with them, she learns to have real faith, which she’ll need when the job gets all too personal. The ninjas investigate a local mob boss to find Tilly’s best friend caught up in the mess. Fletcher might be involved, too! Her only allies are these ninjas she barely knows. Tilly will need to rely on her faith and her colleagues to save her friend.
For me, one of the biggest compliments I can receive as an author is a reader telling me how they felt they KNEW the character - when a character resonates so strongly with a reader that they become a friend… or enemy. But for writers, creating meaningful dialogue, reactions, and nuances can be daunting.
There are three things that I do that help me to create believable characters. You know… the ones that make you say, “Don’t I know this person?”
1. Be a Pal of Pinterest
or some other reliable search engine or app with an awesome array of images. I am a visual person, so I like to create boards of characters, settings, and props. I create small boards with my character’s picture and I include a collage of clothes they wear, things they have in their locker or room, and phrases they say. I lay out these boards when I write (almost like a crime scene investigator), so that I can feel as if I am working directly with the character.
2. Practice Makes Imperfect
Your character should NOT be perfect. They should have flaws – specifically, flaws that psychologically make sense. For this, I use Myers-Briggs personality types. Depending on the theme or plot, I pick a personality type for my character. Then, I list out their virtues and vices (often on the board I have already created for them). These virtues and vices become the driving force behind my character’s motives. I ask myself, “what would this character want to gain here?” This drives how they interact and react to the other characters in the scene. For example, Tilly from Sunrise Underground, is strongly independent, which isn’t a bad thing. However, she is independent to the point that she doesn’t trust anyone but herself, which makes her ability to work with others very strained. She has to overcome her distrust and self-reliance in order to save her friend.
3. Breaking Backstory
Even if it won’t make it into the final manuscript, having detailed backstory is key to characterization. How we conduct ourselves and the decisions we make all hinge on our past experiences. Even simple things such as what we decide to eat for breakfast all have origins in our culture and experiences. Build a backstory that contains details of both monumental and trivial events in your character’s life. Have they survived any awfully embarrassing moments? What did they do at recess when they were little? Were they bullied? Include little nuances and preferences. Where would they go on a first date? What would they order on their pizza? Do they have any ticks or nervous habits? That kind of thing.
Characters are fragile creatures that need a lot of support to make them believable. Hopefully, with a little extra pre-writing, you’ll have some awesome characters your readers will personally connect with.