How do I develop my characters? (And how to write this post without looking like a nerd?)
I got a super-secret to share with you: before I wrote Young Adult, before I wrote Romance... I was an Epic Fantasy writer. You know, those works everyone has collecting dust, the ones that teach us how to write before we go and release our precious debut novel? I got those too, and they’re filled with elves and sorcerers and lots of sword-waving, spell-flinging gallivanting. Those stories were pure epic and, well, the larger-than-life characters were a given.
And then I went and wrote Silent Song. I loved my epics, I loved (and love) reading about saving the world and changing the course of history... but this once, I needed a boy and a girl; people who could be you and me. And I needed the hero to be someone you could meet too—someone you could really feel for, even if he wasn’t your average swoon-worthy guy.
I spent weeks thinking about the characters. Mostly about Alice and Keith, of course, but also about the others—Anna and Dave and let’s not forget Beatrice! I thought about what normal kids their age are like; about life in high school (never did like that particular trip down memory lane!); about their families, their quirks, their dreams and hopes... And then I started to type.
I overdid the thinking part.
I realized it when, barely three paragraphs into the novel’s first draft, Alice tapped my shoulder. Hands on hips, she arched a brow as if she hadn’t given me a near heart attack.
“I seriously hope you’re not thinking about writing a love triangle. Because, no.”
Her supposed boyfriend appeared out of nowhere, rubbed the back of his neck, and surreptitiously eyed Anna. Who was dating. Who was dating someone who wasn’t him!
I was stumped, but they were stubborn and it was just a first draft, so I kept writing.
You know, I should have seen the signs of rebellion when I still had a measure of authority because after than moment, things got only worse. That fight Alice and Anna should have had? Yeah, somehow they ended up crying with laughter, stuffing their faces with chocolate and bonding even closer than before.
“Hey!” I tried to put order, of course. “You’re supposed to drift apart now, you know.”
“Bite me,” Alice said, demonstrating with a huge chocolate chip cookie. Anna just snorted and ignored me.
I had to kept going, clearly defeated and outmatched. Before my eyes, lovers I hadn’t paid any attention to became crucial, friendships I had campaigned against flourished, easy and comfortable romance became much deeper and tender. Somehow, as I typed surrounded by the din of way too many voices joking around or screaming instructions over my shoulder, I managed to be surprised!
That’s when I realized that what I thought of as my mistake had been my best move: the characters I had given so much detail, the people I knew so well were free to act as they would, and that made the story much better than any planning on my part would have accomplished.
Plus, if I was surprised and I was the writer, what would the reader feel?
And thus the last stretch of writing was a downhill race, not a fight: Alice told her tale, with eventual quips from her sidekicks Anna and Dave, and while I ended up emotionally exhausted, I pressed the last enter and was genuinely happy to have done it.
I was also genuinely happy to reclaim the silence in my room. Those characters could be pesky and noisy!
Except it was too soon for relief. When the book was done with and off to my wonderful editor, it was Keith’s turn to sit by my side.
“Is it over?” he asked, quiet and gentle.
I had been an idiot not to see it coming. Keith, the polite, shy boy; the only one who actually did what was asked of him, when it was asked, with a small, sometimes sad smile. Out of them all, the one who had more to say about the events.
As I stared into his blue, blue eyes, he pushed the hair out of his face, licked his lips, and started to talk. He didn’t make demands, didn’t challenge me and didn’t scream to get his story on paper. He stumbled on his words, too unused to having an audience. But he let his heart speak for him, almost as he did when he played guitar.
What else could I do? I called up a new document and started to type again, a new beginning after Silent Song’s ever after. And all around me, Keith’s silence... It shattered.
* * *
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ron C. Nieto is a fantasy and romance author who has been writing in her secluded fortress for the longest time. Recently, she had a talk with her cat and decided that she should share her creations, because it was selfish to hoard them all for herself.
If you would like to know more about her, please visit her website, http://www.roncnieto.com.
The princess of the school, Alice, is keeping a secret that could strip her of her high school fame. She is obsessed with the school’s outcast, Keith, but not just him – his music.
Since the inspiration for the song hit, Keith can’t get it out of his mind. The song must be played; it demands to be played. He knows the music is changing him, but he is unable to stop it.
Music has the ability to move you, enlighten you, and take you to places you have never dreamed of. And this particular piece? It has a life of its own and makes you forget who you really are.
As Keith and Alice learn of one another to the notes of that one perfect tune, they can overlook their roles and discover who they could be together. But they also discover someone else is listening and intends on keeping Keith to herself, possibly for an eternity.