Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Guest Post: Jessica Shirvington

Stopping in today is Embrace author Jessica Shirvington, to talk about developing secondary characters. As interesting as it is to find out how an author learns who their protagonist is, I always like knowing how they bring those side characters to life too. So check out her way of going about it!

Supporting characters are vital to any good story. They are the basis for believability and, in a series like Embrace, their stories become more and more important as the books go on.

When I began Embrace I spent a lot of time developing the minor characters. Originally, my focus was on positioning them for Violet’s benefit – to provide her with interesting and conflicting personalities, rather than replications of the same person with different hair and eye color over and over. On top of that there needed to be a balance of supportive and opposing characters and sometimes within each category an imposter (a goodie that really isn’t / an evil mastermind that has good potential). All of these elements provide a good base of characters that can support and challenge Violet.

It was important to understand the background of each minor character before I committed to the role they played in the story – so I wrote background profiles for each on them and timelines (since some characters have existed for several hundreds of years). As I developed each of these characters it was easy for me to see where I wanted some of them to end up, but at the same time, others have really surprised me.

I like to remain open to change if events require it. Sometimes I find myself writing a scene and once I’m in it, whilst it plays out for Violet as I had planned, I realize that – for the minor characters – I need to be willing to adapt. I call it the “BUY IT” rule. At the end of each scene I read it back – once focusing solely on Violet and then, turning my attention to the reactions of the other characters involved. If at any point I read a comment or a reaction and think to myself – no, they wouldn’t say that/react that way – I don’t buy it, and I have to re-write. If I don’t buy it, readers certainly won’t.

In Enticed (bk2, out in Sept 2012) quite a few new characters are introduced and they throw a new element into the story, which is really exciting. I’ve had a lot of fun with these characters and introducing them to Violet and the other characters from Embrace. Their arrival provides the ability to develop characters like Violet’s best friend, Steph, and also introduce a new perspective for Violet to consider.

Embrace is an ongoing series, so character development happens quickly for some characters and more slowly for others. Sometimes I get so excited and want to write more about the minor characters that interest me, but I have to hold myself back and refocus on the three core characters – Violet, Lincoln and Phoenix. The key is to be open to any character stepping up and surprising me. If their story can be more, then I definitely want to do them justice!

Thank you, Jessica, for the look into your writing process!

Embrace hits shelves March 6, so make sure you guys keep it on your radar!

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