For The Love Of Characters

Characters.  A word with multi-faceted meaning if ever there was…

My, but he’s a character!

This is my favorite application of the word.  It says so much, yet leaves a great deal to the imagination.  Ha!  In writing, authors strive to capture the essence of that sentiment, morphing a set of typed characters (Ah!  There’s that word again) into a personality that draws you, excites and amuses, puzzles, leads you forward within the story, attaching you seamlessly to their emotions and deepest desires. Becoming more than two-dimensional names printed on a white background, our favorite and best-loved characters capture our hearts and minds – are as real to our mind’s eye as a friend, an enemy, or a lover.  Well, that’s the goal, anyway.

One fun way to reveal a character’s character (Okay…I’m taking it a bit far with my use of the word, but I cannot help myself.  Really. *snorts with delight at own perceived wit*  Apologies extended.) is through dialogue.  I’ll share a back and forth exchange between sister-like characters in my latest novel, a paranormal romance titled The Third Fate.

Being one of four sisters (and having four brothers) I love including sibling relationships in my novels.  The dynamics between siblings allow for quirky interaction – siblings say to you what no one else would dare! (At least mine do…)

Paige Kinnell, speaking on the phone to her twin cousins after a mysterious, dream-like adventure of the night before….

‘What is it, Brooke?’

The cheery voice on the other end ignored her rude beginning.  ‘You have something to tell us?’ her cousin, Brooke, teased wickedly.

‘What would I have to tell?’ Paige questioned, having no idea what her cousin was about.

‘Don’t you dare play the shy little virgin this morning, Paige Kinnell!  We want details, woman!’

Brooke’s voice carried overly well through the line, and Paige held the phone away from her ear, protecting her eardrum.  ‘What in all of Hades are you about, calling me in the morning asking me silly questions?  Details?  Of what?’

Brooke screamed in exasperation.  ‘Of that beautiful man you went on about last night on the phone!  You know, the one with the black hair?  The icy blue eyes?  The body built to make a saint sin?  That’s who!’

Oddly, Paige did not remember that; however, she did remember the man.  The man from her dream.

Oh Bother!  How can I explain this?

‘I must have been dreaming or something.  Sorry, but there’s really nothing to tell, girls.’

‘Paige, honey…if those are your dreams, I need to know what you were drinking before you went to sleep!’  Brooke laughed, relating the conversation to Lara, who guffawed in the background.

Paige smiled, her first of the morning.  They made her crazy, but she couldn’t imagine life without them.  ‘All right, you two.  I’ve got to get ready for work.  Call me later.  Maybe I’ll get out of there on time for once.’

‘You should come out with us tonight,’ Brooke invited.  ‘We’re going to Jinty McGinty’s…It’ll be fun.’

‘I don’t know,’ Paige hesitated.  ‘You know I don’t drink much, and sitting around while everyone else does is not all that fun.’

‘Oh, come on!  It’s been an age since you let your hair down.  All work and no play make Paige a dull girl.  You’re too timid, Paige.  How are you ever going to land a man if you…’

Someone or something interrupted Brooke’s sage-like lecture, saving Paige the trouble of begging off the line.

‘Sorry, Paige!  Gotta run!  I’ll call you at seven sharp.  And for the love of Henry wear something more risqué than a turtleneck.’

The line went dead, and Paige heaved a sigh of relief, muttering as she readied for work.  ‘What’s the matter with my turtleneck sweaters, anyway?’

The Third Fate © Nadja Notariani, 2011

 ~ Nadja

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Casting Call from Hell

When I think what the casting call for my latest work, Shaken, might look like, I start to feel sort of squeamish and guilty.

Almost, but not quite, Eva Green is the closest I can come.

Take the lead character, Mitzy:

Wanted, Caucasian female, early thirties. Must be at least 5’10, dark-haired, blue-eyed, and able to run in heels. Resemblance to Eva Green a plus. Role calls for comedy as well as drama, and lots of action. Ability to fire a gun a must, willingness to consume vast amounts of liquid in order to play an alcoholic also necessary. Some nudity required.

Would you take that job? Who’s going to be willing to play a snarky, alcoholic detective who’s also a little bit nuts because she can see everyone else’s magical aura? That’s a rough gig.

As for the male lead in Shaken, well, that’s easy for me, but rough on potential series-stars:

No question: this is Tom Collins.

Male, mid- to late-thirties, must look like Nestor Carbonell

I’ve had this actor in mind since I first conceived of sexy reporter Tom Collins, and (if you ask me) there is no one else who looks quite like him. Should Shaken ever be brought to life, I’ll be heartbroken, because no one they cast will be quite as perfect.

Happily, the book remains fairly strictly in my head, and I can imagine Tom Collins looking just like this. And if you read my book, you have to promise that you’ll imagine it, too.

We also need to cast Mitzy’s partner, Shannon Li, and that’s another tall order:

Chinese-American female, late-twenties to early-thirties, no taller than 5’6. Must have some resemblance to a fairy and be willing to wear wings on occasion. Ability to shoot a gun a plus. Must be able to portray a tight-ass who eventually develops a sense of humor.

Shannon—better known in the book as Li—is a half-Chinese, half-Sidhe woman from Oakland who worked hard to get to her position, and resents Mitzy for being a privileged white girl who abuses her job by drinking too much and trying to cut corners. She works to hide her wings but never shows any vulnerability. Good luck, actresses.

As for Mitzy and Li’s boss, Emberson, we need a middle-aged guy who acts like a jerk but thinks he’s a great guy:

The expression is correct, but he’s far too dreamy.

Mid-forties to early fifties white male, at least six feet tall, looks like a football player gone to seed. Must convey patronizing sense of superiority within unctuous acts of friendliness. Ability to throw excellent temper tantrums and shout for long periods of time a necessity. 

For this role, I’d love to see a decade-older Nathan Fillion, slightly balding, slightly overweight, channeling his Captain Hammer persona.

That’s probably just because I’d die to have Nathan Fillion in my books. It’s too bad he’ll never be unattractive enough, though we could always do to him whatever they did to Colin Farrell for Horrible Bosses:

Not a good look for him.

Come to think of it, maybe we should just cast Colin Farrell.

There’s a start, folks. Actors of the future: start rehearsing.

When Characters Take Over…

*Ominous music cues* Characters taking over, you ask? Whatever do you mean?

Well, there’s this assumption that writers always have a solid handle over their characters. That we know, at any given moment, who they are, what they’re doing, and how it will all turn out in the end. I am here to tell you, not so, my friends!

When I first began to write Enlightened (which will be out February 2013), my protagonist Nisha Moore was supposed to be a little bit flighty, funny, and someone you could gulp down in a couple of sips and really not worry about again. I was going for a humorous paranormal novella, about 20,000 words (70 pages) total. Clearly, that was not to be. Enlightened is now the first in a trilogy, and Nisha has turned out to be this multifaceted, dynamic character who has a very steep learning curve/character arc to contend with.

Since Enlightened was only my second attempt at writing a full-size novel, I learned a lot on Nisha (poor girl; it’s no wonder she has such issues). At first, I refused to listen to her when she banged on the inside of my forehead going, “Hey! I’m not flighty and fleeting! I’m here to stay! I want a longer story!” Then, I refused to listen when she insisted–rather huffily, I might add–that she wanted to tell the story from her perspective. None of this deep 3rd person nonsense. So I had to put the book away for a bit.

I came back to it months later, when I felt like I’d had enough breathing room. I decided to listen about the 1st person thing. It was liberating. Next, I did a character analysis. Who was Nisha, exactly? What does she want most from life? How will she change in this book? And that’s when I realized she wanted to come back over and over. The idea for a trilogy was born.

Nisha is one of my favorite characters of all the people I’ve written because she changed so much, and because I gave myself license to really listen to that internal voice that wouldn’t shut up about her. It was scary, uncharted territory because I wanted to write a funny-yet-deep story about this character who had a lot to contend with. And also, this character is nothing like me. In fact, I did a personality test on her for fun just to see what she was all about. It helped immensely.

If you’re a writer, or dream of writing something someday, I suggest you keep your ears wide open for any pearls of wisdom your characters may want to drop in there. Apparently, they really know what they’re doing. I’m learning to shrug and say, “Hey, I just work here.”

Have your characters ever pulled the rug out from under you? If you’re a reader, have there been characters in books who turned out to be different than you were expecting?

Dream Cast for The Elemental Series – Heroes and Villains

So everyone will have to forgive me; it’s been a bit of a exhausting week so I’m borrowing from some posts I’ve done in the past. I have been in a deep writer’s haze working on the fifth and final book in my Young Adult Urban Fantasy series. But I loved the idea of this kind of post so I though maybe the rest of you would too.

Of course we would all like to see our stories come to life on the big screen and can’t help but wonder, who would we have play our characters? So I thought I would show you all who I can see playing both the heroes of my books and the villains!

First up: Shayna our main character and narrator. I love Emily Browning, I have ever since Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and then when I saw her in Sucker Punchan epic terrible movie full of awesome I knew she was perfect for Shayna and she looks so much like her it’s uncanny.

Next, one of Shay’s two best friends: Jodi. Jodi is not my favorite character. She doesn’t mean to be as bitchy as she is but she doesn’t make much of an effort not to be either. She is a fiercely loyal friend in spite of her selfish tendencies. Jodi is the Air element of the trio, blond, fair skinned and slightly ethereal like the faeries of her element. I can totally see AnnaSophia Robb as Jodi.

The third main character, and my favorite of the trio: Steven. Steven is the constant bright light in the book. He has so many issues he’s dealing with but his ultimate goal in life is to be happy. I love this picture of Tyler Posey because it looks just like I picture Steven, maybe a year or two too young, but it’s pretty darn close.

From book one two main characters are Ian and Jensen, the twin brothers. We’re never quite sure who is the good guy and who is the bad guy or if they’re both the bad guy. But we do know one thing: they have caught the eye of every girl in school with steely blue-gray eyes and dangerously sharp cheekbones. Alex Pettyfer seems to fit that bill just fine.

In book two we deal with two negative forces. First up is our antihero, Jeremy. Jeremy is a broken soul, neglected and abused his whole life, he is just trying to stand out, to be special like everyone else. But if you take the time you can see that there is light in his eyes. Cameron Bright is the perfect Jeremy.

As for the other character, Jeremy is plagued and beguiled by an Air Sylph, one who looks to use Jeremy’s power to cause chaos and pain to those around him. She feeds on his anger and spiking emotions. Strangely she looks very much like Jodi, but she is her own character. I don’t know much about this actress, but when I look into Emily Tennant’s eyes, I can see her as the slyph.

Finally we have book three (so far), Water. In this book there is a horde of creepity water nymphs, my nightmare version of mermaids. But the leader is Noufaro. I even featured her on my cover. I had a hard time figuring out who should play this character because she is totally and completely fantastical but then I saw this picture of Amanda Seyfried and I gave her a little underwater makeover and boom, I found my nymph.

Supporting Character

I hope everyone is staying cool this July! This month, all the gals here at Spellbound Scribes will be posting character-centric posts that exists in our book world.

In the Traveler’s Series, I not only have a strong primary cast of characters, but alternate versions of these characters. It can get kind of confusing, so I’ll just let you readers discover them for yourselves.

There is one character that stays the same, regardless of which reality it is.

It all started with the idea of having my two main characters meet for the first time in a public location. Originally, I had Etta and Cooper meet at a party, but that ended up not working with the storyline. So instead of a college kegger, a coffee shop it became.

ImageAfter awhile, the coffee shop kind of became its own character in the story, with coffee itself playing a recurring role throughout the book (no doubt due to all the cappuccinos I drank while writing it). And while there’s no lack for coffee in the very real locale of Old Town Alexandria, I chose to make Battle Grounds a fictional coffee house.

In PARALLEL, Battle Grounds is the only place that remains the same in both realities. Traveling to an alternate reality can be pretty disorienting, so this is both a comfort and a constant for Etta. I have a feeling Battle Grounds will remain unaltered in the various other realities Etta travels to throughout the series.

And the logo? I came up with it when I wanted to come up with some super giveaway swag. The area of Old Town is both classic and eclectic, so I wanted something vintage and edgy, reflective of the type of scene you’d find in Old Town. There’s also another reason for the design. I totally love skulls, so I wanted to incorporate a little part of me into the logo.

Battle Grounds makes another appearance in PARADIGM (book 3), and no matter what timelines have been shifted, what reality my characters find themselves in, Battle Grounds will always remain a constant.

Who’s your favorite supporting character?