There are some authors who know every character’s path before they even start writing.
I’m not one of those authors.
I’m the one who often surprises myself while I’m writing when it comes to certain things. Character development is one of those things.
Take Eliot in the Avery Shaw series. When I first envisioned the series I knew I wanted him to be a viable love interest but I ultimately expected him to lose to Jake. As things progressed, though, I realized it wouldn’t end up that way.
As romantic and fun as it is to imagine first love turning into forever love it doesn’t fit for Avery and Jake because it’s not fair to ask either character to completely change to fit in the other’s world. Eliot doesn’t have those issues and he grew in different and exciting ways as the series progressed.
Sometimes even I’m surprised by how much I like Eliot.
There are different characters in each series that ended up with bigger roles than I initially envisioned.
One of the biggest (other than Eliot) is Chief Terry in the Wicked Witches of the Midwest series. I always wanted him to be a friendly and amiable guy who cared about the witches but he’s ultimately taken on a huge role in the series (he’s very involved in the upcoming mystery installment).
He’s a surrogate father for Bay, Clove and Thistle. He’s a sounding board for Landon. He’s something to spar over for Winnie, Twila and Marnie. He’s also someone Aunt Tillie can’t help but rely on when she gets in trouble.
On the flip side, because I’m so enamored with Chief Terry I don’t often give the fathers enough character development. In my head I know I need to fix that and yet I remain a huge fan of Chief Terry and love writing for him. It is what it is.
When it comes to the Mystic Caravan series, I knew I would be able to have a lot of fun with the characters. One that stood out was Nellie, though. I thought he was going to be an occasional funny character. I mean … who doesn’t find joy in a cross-dressing dwarf masquerading as the bearded lady at a magical circus? Fairly soon when I started writing that series, though, Nellie’s role grew and while he’s not the main character, he’s definitely in the top tier of characters. He’s not all about comedy either. I like it when he has some emotional growth (which you’ll see a bit of in Freaky Games).
Sometimes I know going in that a character is going to be huge … like Jerry in the Grimlock series. Just envisioning him had me laughing and he still makes me laugh six books in. The big issue with the Grimlocks was creating a unique relationship between Aisling and all four of her brothers. At the outset I found Braden lacking so I had to concentrate hard on developing him and (hopefully) I’ve managed to create a unique relationship between Aisling and each brother that manages to stand out.
It’s always hardest at the beginning of a series. It’s a balancing act to give new characters life without doing an info dump (which is boring for everyone involved, readers and author). Launching the Charlie Rhodes series (which will debut in May) in the Wicked Witches of the Midwest world was an added trial because I wanted to give the witches some time to shine while introducing the new characters. I’m not a fan of revealing every single thing about a character in the first book, though, so there will be plenty of books to get to know them better while the witches get a lot of time to interact with the new characters in the first book. It was fun to write the witches through a new character’s eyes. There’s a lot of “wink, wink” for readers but there’s fun in the new discovery, too.
Sometimes I get messages asking how a series is going to end. I know in some cases how it’s going to end. In fact, I know exactly how the Aisling Grimlock series is going to end. I know who is going to say the last sentence. I know what the words are going to be. I have a few ideas about the witches, but that’s way down the road. I also know in a general sense how Avery Shaw will end. I have no idea how Mystic Caravan or Charlie Rhodes will end, though. Not even a notion. Sometimes it’s fun knowing. Sometimes it’s fun discovering things as I’m writing.
Even though I know exactly how the Grimlock series will end I’m still excited to enjoy the ride to the finale. And, like anything else, that ultimately may not be the end. I ended the Covenant College series at five books and then more than a year later I had fun ideas for two follow-up trilogies, which increased the books in that world to eleven. I also have plans for those characters to visit the Mystic Caravan Circus and very probably they will ultimately cross paths with Charlie Rhodes down the line.
I’m always open to new ideas so when people ask how I plan on ending something I’m not playing coy when I say I don’t know. I honestly discover something about the characters each time I start a new book. They come alive and entertain me even though I’m supposed to be the one creating them.
3/20/2017 06:29:10 am
It's always fun to know how an author thinks and works and I find it fun to know that my favorite authors have different approaches. One of the authors I follows often says that the characters are not in control of the story, she is. And she's clear it's not a democracy, she makes an outline, the story follows the outline. And then others say they, like you, have a looser approach and are sometimes surprised by how the story and characters develop. It's fun for me as a reader to know that the authors I love can be so varied in approach and still achieve a result that I love to read.
3/21/2017 10:31:25 am
I am always in awe of authors as I can not write even one page of a story. I am glad that I stumbled across the first Witch book and avidly read each one released..and of course all the other series too.
3/21/2017 02:42:57 pm
I enjoy your blogs. Just want you to know - don't end any of your series. It would be like losing friends. I love Chief Terry, I think he deserves more print time than any of the fathers - he's more of a parent to the girls than they were.
3/21/2017 04:40:25 pm
Great blog post! It is so interesting to learn more about what you originally envisioned for characters--especially Chief Terry. And honestly? I don't mind that the fathers do not play as much of a role. I am also super intrigued about how Aisling will end, even though I don't want it to end! Really excited for the new Charlie Rhodes series! I would love it if you spoke more about your Lily Harper Hart series as well!
10/5/2018 02:55:22 am
Being an author means you have all the freedom to write the concept you dream to have for your piece. I have to agree with what you said that some of the writer already know the character path of their characters even before writing it. There are also some who just keep on writing and let things happen. That's thew point they will decide what would be the path of a certain character. Well, whatever technique this author's have, what we need to do is to support them and give them the freedom they want for their stories.
2/27/2021 09:24:27 pm
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When I was a kid, I was torn between whether or not I was going to grow up and be the Incredible Hulk or Wonder Woman. I flirted with being a Jedi Knight for awhile, but I wasn't up for the intense travel associated with the gig. In my teens, I settled on being a writer -- although I had no idea the effort that would entail.