It’s All About Character

When I woke up this morning I had no idea what I was going to blog about. Oh, I’d thought about it, albeit in the back of mind, all month. I’ve been hitting the edits and re-writes for Defending Destiny pretty hard the past few weeks and honestly I was gearing up to begrudge the time blogging takes…yea right…it’s fun and it only comes around once per month, sometimes twice if I’m feeling engaged in the process. That’s when it hit me, like a SHASZAM LIGHTNING BOLT, to the brain.vatican

It’s in the rewrites that I actually fall in love with my characters. TAH-DAH…BLOG!taking a bow

About a third of the way through any Work in Progress — WIP — I begin to really feel who my characters are. Their motivation for what they do, and don’t do in some cases, gets more nuanced and textured as I get into the rhythm of the story.

I begin with a rough character profile for every character…before I ever start typing. Some characters get added as the story goes because they write themselves in. I know I’m the one writing, and yes I know they aren’t real, but sometimes these characters push until they are on the page. For me that generally means a future book of their own and I welcome them. They get a profile too.

Profiles for me include: Name, sex, age, race, distinguishing characteristics (scars, tattoos, etc.) body type, educational background, social/family background, hobbies, employment, fears (if I know them), aspirations (short & long-term), financial status, favorite food (sometimes this plays into quirkiness), favorite shows/entertainment, religious alignment/spirituality, eye color & shape, facial structure, voice, languages, prejudices, what they love…  This list can go on, but basically it’s less than a page and gives me an idea of who they are before I start and it also makes keeping track of details easier. Most of the time I find a photo or image that represents my hero to me as well. Here’s Magnus in Defending Destiny. YUM!

Magnus in Defending DestinyThese profiles I make at the beginning are rarely who my characters turn out to be when the edits and re-writes are complete. Most of the physical description is the same, but that’s about it. I learn as I go, I guess. Not the quickest way to complete a novel, that’s for sure.

So as I’m gearing up for deep edits, something that’s more conducive to a deep sigh and a “here we go again, when ARE you going to get this right the first, second or third time, Woman?” This morning I’m thankful that this is when I really get to fall in love with these larger than life, flawed, yet sincere characters. This is when the magic happens. And magic is hard work, my friends!

So, I’m curious. If you’re a writer, what’s your process? (I’m hoping that book five finds mine more streamlined) If you are a reader — and we all are — what makes a character worthy of your love? Is it the small quirks? Is it his or her kindness or sense of humor? Who are your favorite characters? What makes them resonate with you? As you can tell I write character driven stories…I love a good plot, but character is why I turn the page when I’m reading, so it’s why I write like I do.

I can’t wait to share Defending Destiny with you. Here’s a sneak peek at my cover in progress:Defending Destiny Cover

Happy Writing. Happy Reading. And here’s hoping that we create magical worlds readers want to return to again and again! Happy Wednesday, my friends! May February find you steeped in romance :),


22 thoughts on “It’s All About Character

  1. Wow! Love the cover! The title, too! It sounds like it might be more intense than your other books.

    My process seems to change with each book, but I usually do a very streamlined character sketch. Name. Age. Looks. Whatever seems important. I can’t write something too detailed because things change as I write. Even the names, age and looks change as I write. I think what makes me love a character is their passion and depth. I don’t like shallow characters. I get tired of them quickly. Great post!


    • I’m with you, Edie. I love characters who have depth to them…they’re the ones who leap off the page into my heart. I think this book probably is more intense than the others. I think the writing is better, because it’s more organic and less adhere-to-craft-rules-all-the-time driven and more pure story-telling. I’m just now beginning to love it! Thanks for visiting 🙂


  2. Dear Jill, I wish I could streamline my process and plot more. I usually have about one page of bullet points as an outline and even that gets thrown out the window by the time I’m done. It’s interesting to see the progression, though. 😉 I’m hoping the next book will flow like warm butter over toast. I guess we’ll see 🙂


  3. I really like the picture of Mangus…though he would totally scare me. I didn’t know that male witches were also called witches. I always thought they were warlocks. Live and learn.
    Character profiles…I have a spreadsheet. Don’t laugh. Spreadsheets are my friends.
    I don’t think that there is an easy way to write a book. It’s amazing how many times we reread our work before we let it loose in the world.


    • Dear Pepper, Magnus isn’t quite as dark as the image I posted. He is physically dark, but not emotionally so. He’s a metal smith (metallurgist) creating both beautiful jewelry and weapons that he imbues with his own natural magic, based on ancient Druid teachings. He’s kind and funny and strong. He’s also more light-hearted by nature than the image suggests, but then aren’t we all more than the face we project to the world? He’s a great character and I’m really loving him. I get the spreadsheet. I need a way to keep all my copious notes straight! My problem is I’d spend so much time figuring out my spreadsheet I’d never get any writing done ;). I’m not sure all men whose spiritual practice is natural magic refer to themselves as witches. Some are Wiccans, Druids, Pagans, Neo-Pagans etc. It’s an interesting field to study.


  4. I’ve tried it all. Now I simply let characters jell in my head and jot down plot points as I think of them. Jumbled, yes. Then I outline and let the story, hopefully, take place. I, too, like characters with depth. Must be lovable, warm and with a sense of humor. Ah, these characters. They either pass the test or they don’t. Good luck with your newest! Nice cover.


    • Thanks, Carol! We’re still working on the tag line for the front, but it’s fine for now. I know there’s no one way to write a great story, I’m just envious — in a good way — of those authors that make it sound so easy. Write…fix the spelling, commas and quotes…send it out into the world and it’s fabulous…If only ;). I’m enjoying the tweaking process, even with the re-writes, this time though and for that I’m grateful. I feel it coming together into a story I love. That’s a good feeling.


  5. Thanks so much Susan. It’s hard for me to talk about process, since mine is so mixed up. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters in the end as long as we get to a point where we’ve created the best story we can create. I’m glad you like the cover; I’m curious what you think of the tag line. Still working on one that resonates. Thanks for commenting and for sharing your writing life!


  6. I really enjoy the enthusiasm you have for your characters! I couldn’t help but think as I was reading, that the characters you create seem to develop the same way we all do. You never know how where you’re going to end up, who you’re going to be in the future, and so on. And as you spend more time with other people, you get to know them better. This is similar to how you grow to know your characters more in depth the more you read, reread and edit. Thanks for the post Leigh!


  7. I usually write (or play) the whole book in my head before I even type one line. For a month or more, I ‘see’ my protagonists and I follow them as they live the story. When I finally play the end in my mind, I start typing the first paragraph. By then, I know it by heart and I know every quirk of my protagonists. After I write the first chapter, I type an outline, and I detail it after I finish three chapters. Once the whole book is typed, I go through each chapter and check the emotional development, the dates and schedule of events, the action and plot outline. My problem is that I fall in love with my hero with every book I write and have trouble letting go. I could spend month editing just to keep company with my ‘actors’. Once a book is published, I never read it again. It’s like I already said goodbye to dear friends.


    • Dear Mona, what a fabulous way to live with your characters before you even start. I haven’t done that consciously, but I’m sure certain characters percolate in my sub-conscious for quite some time before they become real on the page. My hat is off to you. Your approach, no doubt, allows for more productivity. I’m going to give it a shot, although I doubt I can wait more than a few days to start typing…Thank you. I love to hear how others write. Process intrigues me!


  8. I get the characters in my head and then I write. Then I go back and write more as I know I’ve never really captured them with all the quirks and things that make them endearing. But with each layer I add to the story, I think I bring them out. I never actually write them down. I know them.

    That cover is HOT! I hate these men that are stripped of hair! Let a man be a man and not a little boy.

    There’s a big Wiccan group around here, but they don’t exactly advertise it. I have a friend whose son was dating a witch for several years. Fascinating young woman.


    • Thanks! I’m happy with the cover so far and I like men too :). I like to write when characters present themselves as well. I add quirks sometime a third or so of the way through when I have a better feel for them and often they aren’t the quirks I thought of when I did my character profiles. 🙂 I like to think that makes them, and my writing, more organic. Who knows? It’s good to know I’m not alone in adding layers as I go! When I started delving into the way many neo-pagans live, I learned a lot about earth-centered religions. For most, spirituality is in the interconnectedness of all things; it also has a strong element of self-awareness.


      • We start writing their story and then we’ve got to show the reader that they are more than just dialog moving through space. I think few people can write it all perfectly the first time. That layering makes everything better. Sometimes I layer for specific things such as emotion, movement, or place (room, sofa, vehicle, color, scent, etc.). It takes me several passes before I’m satisfied enough to even send it to a beta reader.


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