I’m happy to welcome author Amy Tupper as my guest blogger today. Amy is the author of Tenderfoot and the soon to be published Blinded.
As an author, the creation of characters for a story is of vital importance. Each component the author chooses helps to define them, and with it, the story. But what does it take to create a character you love? Here’s what I did.
My goal was to create characters that excited me, hoping it would carry over to the readers. As is common in the writing of a book, the characters in Tenderfoot came first and the story shaped around them. My story features the main protagonist Jules, her love interest Andrew, and villain Nick.
I created a backstory for Jules which helped to explain who she was now: shy, sometimes hesitant , always wary. These characteristics are distancing. How to help the audience identify with her?
To make Jules accessible, I detailed her reactions to normal situations. The situations Jules faces in the beginning of the book are a baseline of normal college life, thereby known to the audience. As Jules interacts with her surroundings, I define how hard she works to fit in, showing that she makes a true effort. It’s not long before things go south for Jules. All she wants is to be normal yet she faces a situation where she will never be that. This adversity helps to humanize Jules. While she fits in well with her new friends, she finds herself in a place where she must accept what she is or run away from it. My hope was the audience would root for her in an unusual situation that is symbolic of the larger universal situation that we all go through – coming of age and accepting adult responsibilities.
Having a love interest humanizes Jules. She wants what we all want: to love and be loved by someone she trusts. Will she get the boy? Which one? Or will she freak out over what she is and run away?
Andrew, Mr. Love Interest, was harder to flesh out than Jules. His role is easily identified. Obviously, Andrew does not think of himself as a love interest. He’s the protagonist in his own story! (And also, my next book Blinded.) What qualities could I give him to break him out of the stereotype? I found out by creating a backstory as complex as Jules’. Andrew’s backstory became: he has a not-perfect family life and throws himself into his fencing competitions, a non-mainstream sport. He’s competitive, yet scared of letting anything get in the way of his athletic goals. Since Jules tells the story, her expression of her fear that she might hurt Andrew places a guy who is physically strong into a weak position which I hoped would generate sympathy.
Then there was the villain Nick. But is Nick really a villain? This is a question that is not answered until well into the story. Does he act as a villain? Yes, without question. Therein lies the dilemma. If he’s acting as a bad guy, how can I keep the audience from hating him? Better yet, how could I provoke the audience into both loving AND hating him?
I admit, this took a bit of tap-dancing. I started with characteristics normally thought of as annoying. Nick is a smart-ass, intrusive, and manipulative. To counter these negative associations, he is physically beautiful, mysterious, humorous, and takes actions that could only be interpreted as kind. The bonus with Nick? Like any character you love to hate, determining what he will do next added greatly to the story.
There came times in the plot as these three characters wove in and out of each other’s stories, when I had to stop and think hard and write a bit. I would take an issue and write about it from the view point of each of them to understand how they would respond. This helped me to keep the story true to the characters and their motivations. Also, it was a great way to get inside my characters’ heads.
Thus far, the feedback from readers tells me I was successful: I created characters they loved. This pleases me to no end. I love my wonderful but flawed characters. Sharing these feelings with an audience is incredibly rewarding as is the journey they undertake together.
Indie Author of TENDERFOOT