November 26, 2010

Building Characters that come alive with Ciara Gold

First, a huge thank you to Anna Kathryn for letting me guest blog today. She's a jewel, especially when I was scheduled to post on Monday and I had one of those senior moments. And yet, it's moments like those that help give ideas to characterization.

My muse has been running amuck lately with new story ideas and characters, but that's better than having writer's block so I'm happy. Holidays are a great time to sit back and people watch, to see how folks react to different situations. Tonight was no exception as we had a room full watching the TAMU/UT game where half the group were UT fans and the other half, TAMU fans. I'm happy to say, I was on the winning side. Whoop! But the bantering back and forth provided a wealth of catchy dialogue. Gotta luv that.

So, here are some of the things I do to get into a character's psyche:
  1. People watch. How does a shy person react to a situation as opposed to a boisterous person?
  2. Background. Each character needs a background, roots, cultural heritage, religious preference. Did something happen when he/she was six to make him afraid of dogs? Do they always associate kites with an exceptionally happy moment?
  3. Astrology.  When were they born? What characteristics do they have based on their sign?
  4. Numerology. I love choosing names that support their astrological signs. If a name I have in mind doesn't work with my previous perception of their character, then I choose another.
  5. Regional influences. This one is hard if you write about a character that's not from an area you're familiar with. Doubtful a native New Yorker is going to say y'all.
  6. Quirky mannerisms. Does she scrunch her nose each time she's mulling over a problem? Does he tap his foot when  he's aggravated.
Overall, people are complex creatures, so characters should be complex also. 

I have a Victorian fantasy romance, The Keeper of Moon Haven coming out in December and the hero is one of my favorite characters. He's half elf and half human. The elf in him gives him wizard like abilities, which made for a most interesting character.  I have another book coming out in April that probably has the most complex hero and heroine I've every written. He's a futuristic warrior with knowledge of all of his reincarnated souls. And they do love popping up at the most inconvenient times. Be on the lookout for Dragon Hunter this coming spring.

So, how do you go about building your characters? Or if you're a reader, what makes you identify with a character in a book?

Again, thanks to Anna Kathryn for letting me visit. To learn more about me and my work, stop by my website where I have sample first chapters for all my books.


Kat Hall said...

I learned something from reading your character building. What genre is your Dragon Hunter that is coming out in the spring?

Victoria Roder said...

Interesting post & I enjoyed your character building tips.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Ciara. Better late than never! I'm so glad you joined me today and what a great post.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I have always been a people watcher. One of my favorite pasttimes while my children spent hours in a theme park. You see couples and wonder how they met and how 'those' two find something in common. I love to guess, but even more fun is to get them talking. Since most people like to talk about themselves, you can get a lot of info by asking questions.

Your stories sound interesting, Ciara. Nice meeting you today.

Susan Macatee said...

Great post, Ciara! I've gotten into using psycological profiling to create characters. I took a couple of workshops from writers who are also psychologists. It's really interesting to form your charcters reactions from what type of profile he or she is built from. Different types react differently to the same situation.

Ciara Gold said...

Hey Kat! Dragon Hunter is the last of the sequel to Celestial Dragon unless something else triggers an idea. So, it's sci-fi futuristic.

And thanks everyone else for posting. People watching is usually more fun than TV, Paisley. I want to get deeper into psychological profiling, too. I've bought a book or two on the subject, but haven't dived in as deep as I'd like.

I think I watch the programs I watch just to study different characters. Each time I'm introduced to a new one, I think wow, would they really act like that based on other information or did the actor nail that character right on the head?

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Enjoyed the character building post, Ciara - it's good fun to people watch!

Jude Johnson said...

Hi Ciara,

People watching is always fascinating, and holidays bring out the wildest behavior. I try to jot down some of the most memorable actions for future use; as the saying goes, "Be nice to me or I'll put you in my novel."
Susan's classes sound like a treasure trove of insight for writers. I'm going to look for one...


Allison Knight said...

Great tips. I especially like the bit about picking the names. I never thought of trying to tie it to their astrological sign. I'll have to give that a try.

Ashley Barnard said...

You're making me feel lazy! It never occurred to me to taking into account a character's astrological sign. And fun using numerology for their names! Dragon Hunter sounds fantastic, and I can't wait for Moon Haven.