Monday, July 4, 2011

Guest Post: Getting into Character

Today on the TSLoaAR I have Jayne Fordham author of A Season Of Transformation with some advice about character development.

From Goodreads: 
A Season of Transformation is a young adult fantasy/ romance novel set in the contemporary world. It is the story of five young people drawn together to complete a Quest, to protect their town from destruction. In order to defeat the story’s villain, Maxvale, the five virtual strangers must come together and not only forge a bond of trust but become proficient with the ‘abilities’ temporarily bestowed upon them.

In the midst of the lead up to the battle each of the young people has their own personal struggles they are trying to deal with. Lucas, an adopted and bitter teenager struggles to become the person he wants to be whilst developing feelings for Makenna, a rich kid who doesn’t like his attitude. Bonnie is a ‘gothic’ that is dealing with an alcoholic father, Ben the school nerd and Adam the class clown are trying to break free from their high school stereotypes. Can these five teens put their differences aside to defeat Maxvale and save their town?

Getting into Character by Jayne Fordham
Writers tend to figure out their own way of going about writing a novel. Some start writing from the start, some work their way back from the ending. Some write bits and pieces all over the place whilst others come up with a plot before characters or vice versa. Writing a novel is very much an intuitive process and over the past few years I have found my own way. Today I will talk a bit about how I wrote and come up with the idea for my debut YA fantasy romance novel, A Season Of Transformation.

First, I had a picture in my mind of how I wanted the characters to be at the beginning of the story. That was the easy part. Bitter, angry Lucas, shy Bonnie, caring, independent Makenna, humorous Adam and intelligent Ben. The next step was to work my way back to find out how they got to where they were. This is where I put on my psychology hat and ask myself how have these characters reached this point in their lives? Once I’d gone backwards I then went forwards into the future and thought about how I wanted the characters to be presented by the end of the novel. I wanted to know how they would grow so that I could show these changes during the story.

In early drafts of my novel the feedback I received from a mentor was that all the voices sounded the same so many redrafts later I worked hard for each character to be distinct and for each personality to shine through. From what blogger’s are saying about A Season Of Transformation, the characters seem to be the strength of the story.

What’s great about feedback is that you can take from it what you need and expand on it to improve your work. However, there is some advice I got along the way that I didn’t implement because I thought it would take away the integrity of my work. For instance, in an early draft I was told that the characters did not really sound like teenagers, they should be ‘dumbed’ down. I was a bit annoyed by this because I didn’t want to write ‘teenage’ language with the ‘likes’ and ‘sms’ abbreviations of speech. Of course unique speech is all part of adolescent development but I didn’t want my story to be hijacked by this. There’s nothing wrong with a protagonist who is smart and articulate. I have read novels in the past where there has been ample ‘teen language’ and I found it difficult to really get into the story and find depth in the characters.

There are certainly some authors that can pull it off nicely such as P.C and Kristin Cast in their House of Night series. I really enjoy these adolescents and their ‘adult’ responsibilities. It’s just the right mix- although admittedly I do roll my eyes from time to time at the language. So, I guess that is what I am saying I didn’t want the reader to be too distracted by the language and feel removed from the actual story. Check out the character profiles for Makenna, Lucas, Bonnie, Ben and Adam on my author page. (

I think I have the most fun creating characters for a story. Definitely an engaging plot and storyline draws you in but if you can connect with a character then it makes it so much more meaningful.
I would love to hear how other young adult writers get into character? YA readers, what do you find engaging or annoying in the characters that you read about?

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