Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting Intimate With Your Character

I once read that while riding a train, the character of Harry Potter waltzed in fully formed into the mind of J. K. Rowling. I wish the same thing would happen to me. Don't get me wrong, it’s not that I'm envious of Rowling's career. Well, maybe just a little. The old adage that “experts make it look easy” can very well be applied here. Wait, scratch that last sentence. We writers shall not rely on clichés. For my suspense short story, The Assassin's Mistress, I used a character that I put together with a process not unlike the one used so effectively by Doctor Frankenstein. Robert I. Prescott is an assassin; you can see I took his initials—R.I.P.—from classic gravestones. Say, wasn't the good old Dr. Frankenstein accused of savaging graves?
But that's not all. Robert's love interest is named Chantal, which means “stone or boulder” in old French. Oh, yes. There's a pattern there! How much do you know your own characters? A lot? Good, because we should. Of course, even if we know the name and circumstances of how our thirty-year-old lady lost her virginity all those many moons ago, that does not mean we have to write it into the story. Back to Robert and his killing habit. To make him believable to readers, I chose some relevant elements of his personality. The little bits that like strokes on a canvas can form a big picture of a character: His preferred weapon, his signature drink, and the ponytail he fashions from of his flaming red hair. They all contribute a small part to tell the story. Chantal, on the other hand, caused me some trouble because she spoke French, and I don't. I had to rely on Google, and a friend. Then there was her infatuation with aromatic candles while making love. I've heard some authors who claim their characters take over their stories so much they feel like they’re taking dictation. Good for them. For me, having characters do what I write them to do is as painful as a hangover mixed with a toothache on the second day of a flu virus. As a contributor for The Big Thrill e-zine, I recently interviewed an author who has a stunning total of five separate book series. Of course, an obligatory question was how the heck she keeps them clear in her mind. Her simple response shook me as writer. She basically said, “Well, do you confuse your friends?” Now, to say “yes” to that question could pretty much get you an appointment to be tested for Alzheimer. No, I don’t confuse my friends. My characters are like my friend, thus I should not mix them up. They have to become real in my mind. Treat your characters with the respect they deserve. Get intimate with them, but same as you wouldn't reveal all about your friends, pick only the traits that best serve your story; preferably not the ones you grin while typing them. The Assassin’s Mistress: A random encounter leads to deception, love and murder. While vacationing at a ski resort, professional hitman Robert Prescott meets a strange and beautiful woman. They discover passion and embark into a dangerous game hiding their relationship from her powerful husband. Then a further twist of fate makes Robert’s occupation collide with his new found love. Get your copy of The Assassin’s Mistress in Amazon. Some praise for The Assassin’s Mistress: “He enjoyed his Gold Label scotch served neat ... and his victims dead. "Take my hand if you want to live!" J. H. Bográn’s well-crafted crime thriller takes you where you'd never want to go. Highly recommended for a chilling few moments of your reading life.” ~ Bonnie Turner, author of Face the Winter Naked “José Bográn’s short story THE ASSASSIN'S MISTRESS is an unusual, gripping and surprisingly fun ride on a killer roller coaster.” ~ Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of The Bro-Magnet
About J. H. Bográn J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator. Links: Website: Facebook: Twitter: @JHBogran Buy link:


J. H. Bográn said...

Hi Chris,
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your audience.

Did I mention that The Assassin's Mistress is free today? Grab your copy at:

Tami Parrington said...

Great guest blog, Jose. Character development is a tricky thing.


Elaine L. Orr said...

I enjoyed your take on character development. I spent a lot of time on that in doing my Jolie Gentil series, and I find there are still things I'm discovering about the characters. Which means where my ideas take me, I suppose. But now that they are more clearly formed, it is easier for me to "think" like the characters. Good luck with your free book day. I'll pick up a copy.
Elaine Orr