Sunday Q&A: Character Development and Processing Reviews

posted in: Various Musings | 0

Jade answers interview and reader questions on Sundays.

How do you decide who your characters are going to be?

My characters usually tell me, just as the story usually guides me. But when I’m actively thinking about characters, I will sometimes think of a particular type I’d like to write (for example, a mother who needs to discover what’s wrong with her child or—in the case of Nicki Sosebee—I choose certain traits I want a character to have) and then that character drives the story. More often than not, though, I’ll think of a story and then the characters come to me. Sometimes I start the story with sketchy details that get filled out as I go. What I love is that, as I write, the characters reveal more to me than I knew before. It’s an exciting journey for me as a writer and one of the reasons I continue to enjoy writing as much as I do.

Are your characters based on real people, whether they are people from your personal life or celebrities?

No, my characters are not based on real people, although bits and pieces of real people (both from my personal life and those who are celebrities) become parts of characters. More than anything else, though, I think a little piece of me is in all my characters, male and female, and maybe that’s why we authors sometimes take bad reviews personally, even when they’re not meant to be. It’s like hurting us…or our babies.

Here’s one example of parts of people showing up in my characters. I had taken my then five-year-old child to his classmate’s birthday party. One woman there was…well, she was a snob and she was rude, and she thought she was God’s gift to men. She was a real piece of work. By the end of the party, I was glad to get out of there. But I didn’t forget the details about her—blue and pink eye shadow, perfectly manicured nails, snug cut offs that barely covered her bottom. Those details (the nails and the eye shadow) became part of a character in my book Laid Bare. Nothing big (not in a Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” sort of way) but enough to help me as the author recall the feelings I’d experienced. I think little touches like that can add realism and depth to characters that might otherwise be two-dimensional at best.

I also allow myself to be inspired by real stories, especially when it comes to rock star romance. Truth might be stranger than fiction, but I read a lot of metal star news and sometimes little details become big deals in my stories. You never know what might have inspired me.

What responses to your writing have affected you the most and why?

Even though I wish it wasn’t true, it’s the extreme responses, both good and bad, that affect me most. The gushing reviews where someone loved the book—those are awesome, land me on cloud nine, and reward me hugely for doing what I love most. The other extreme, though—really nasty, mean reviews, one where the reader acts like I personally set out to ruin her life by writing a novel—affect me negatively. I used to read all my reviews, feeling like I could learn something from each one, but the one-star reviews are not worth it. If, by the first sentence, I can tell it’s mean and nasty, I stop reading. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. The reviewer is welcome to her opinion, but that doesn’t mean I have to read it.

Got a question for me? Post it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it either here or in a future post!

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