Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed ….




Whatever. Anyway, Yesterday was an amazing day. Today, I am just now getting the word out and telling people and…

It’s like this. And it’s all about creating characters.

Yesterday was the release day for KICKING IT, the anthology Kalayna Price and I edited. It did well (very well) on release day, in no small part to the efforts of my PR team and my street team and the efforts of Chloe Neill who has PR nailed.

Yesterday was also the release day of the new revamped (haha) website . It is stylish and slick and I love it! 

Yesterday was the day I turned in a proposal and character for a new series.

And Yesterday was also the day I turned in my notice that, after the first of the year, I will no longer be a full time lab rat. I went on fill-in part-time at the hospital. I am now a full time writer (with one toe in the lab pool so I have a way back if I am not able to swim in this full-time writing gig). Call me chicken. I am. But I am also brave. And terrified. And excited. It has been a long time coming. And maybe — maybe — I am ready for it.

For the purposes of this site, I want to talk about character. As in the new character and new series I am proposing to my editor. This new character doesn’t mean I am abandoning Jane Yellowrock or even Thorn St.Croix. The eighth JY book (BROKEN SOUL) is due to my editor the first of January. Two shorts about Thorn St.Croix are due the end of January. The proposal for the ninth JY book is due the middle of February. All important stuff. But it’s the new and untouched that is exciting. It’s calling me like a spell whispered on the breeze. And I want to share my process with you.

In creating a character, my very first step is to decide what I hope will happen to her in a commercial sense. Not the conflict sense. That comes later. The very first thing I decide is whether I am hoping for a standalone book and character or a series book and character.

When I was writing standalones, it was easy to character-create, because a character had to live only for 120K to 140K words. But I am writing series characters now. And I wanted to quit the full-time lab job, so I wanted this book to sell to replace lost income. Like, who doesn’t want that, right?

So I approached my agent and discovered that ROC was willing to entertain a two book series set in the Jane Yellowrock world, but not about any of the Jane characters. They wanted a new character in an urban fantasy world but not New Orleans or Asheville. What this meant was that the magical system would remain the same, but the world around it would change.

That meant I needed a back story that was involved enough to be constantly revealed over the course of two books, but not so deep as to require fifteen books to fully reveal, like Jane’s character. So, with that consideration already made, here are the steps I’ve taken so far.

1) Decide on backstory depth. This is the two-book part. If I had been writing on spec, I’d probably plan on a standalone and hope for three books, so this is pretty standard.
2) Ask a pal or two (who are currently starting new series) if they are using certain names as a first person character. I had hoped to use Grace (looking for an old-fashioned name) and, yes, it was in use. So I went with my second choice, Nell. Though that may still change.
3) Chose strengths and weaknesses. Working on that. And this is part of the story that I pants a lot, allowing the strengths and weaknesses to be revealed by the conflict development.
4) Decide on magical gifts. (This is a fantasy world after all.)
5) Decide on physical description. This still eludes me. I’ll never go for classically beautiful. All of my heroines are ordinary looking women. And in this case I may go for *very* plain. But I don’t need it for the proposal. 
6) Create a conflict and a proposal with all that in mind.
7) Chose a location/setting that makes sense in light of all of the above.
8) Write five pages or so and see if I feel her. If I know her. And if I like her.

Well I’ve done all that and now the proposal is in the hands of my agent, and has been turned over to my editor. I am in the waiting stage. Waiting is hard. I am now ready to dive back into the BROKEN SOUL of Jane. But it’s harder than I thought it might be. Isn’t it always when you have a new shiny? 

I can hear some people say, “Well, you have it easier than the unpublished among us. You have direct access.” And that is true. But the negative side of that is that I’m already thinking in terms of commercial sale, not the creative process. Already the idea is slightly tarnished with the words work and job and paying bills. And I am standing on the outside looking in, my creative freedom hamstrung, however great the result will be if the character takes off. And … just like anyone, I can be turned down.

Share with me how you do (or would) create a character if an editor handed you a few guidelines, based on the work you already have in progress. Can you twist your brain around it? Would it be easy? Harder than with total creative freedom? Share with me!



30 comments to Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed ….

  • Congrats on making this huge career step! I can’t wait to see, er, read the results!

  • Mindy, When I made this decision yesterday, and went to the hospital to carry it out, I felt nothing. I was fine. No highs, no lows, just a sort of numbness. Now I am panicking. Just a real horrible “Holy crap on sterling, what have I done!”

  • TwilightHero

    Great news! Especially on becoming a full-time writer. To quote Rob Schneider: “You can do it!” 🙂

    On creating a new character, based on guidelines. I don’t think it’d be that hard, really…the guidelines would simply be decisions that were already made for me. But then, I’ve always been the sort of person who works better inside a box. Tell me to think outside the box? I’ll build a bigger one around the first. It’s just the way I think. And in this case, I think that would work to my advantage. It’d be easier to flesh out a character if I already had something to go on.

  • Wow, Faith, congrats on everything you have going on, and best wishes for its success! 🙂

    If I had to create a character with those restrictions, I think I could. I get a lot from freewriting, I’ve learned. Doing NaNo with an outline last month, I still had so many places where I discovered things about my characters and their story, even with the restrictions (magical system, chronological history, etc) that I already had in place. At first I would struggle, but by talking it out in a word document, I always find that I make a lot of progress. So I’d write until I stopped resisting myself.

  • I think it might be hard not to repeat myself. In a world that I had already created, I might find myself drifting back to what I’d already done, what was comfy, even if at first it seemed to me like it was totally new. I have this problem when I think I’m working on stuff that’s different–I see myself doing similar things. Sometimes it’s similar themes (which isn’t as problematic as, say, “oh, look, another missing magical thing, another mystic forest, another wise elf…” might be) as themes can redone in variant ways. But sometimes it’s just same gal, different name. So that would be the challenge for me. But exploring a new part of the same world has hugely fun possibilities, too. For Sarah and me, our main world is set in Europe, but we’ve toyed with stories in America, where magic, though the world is the same, is very different, so that might be a lot of fun to play with.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Similar to Twilight Hero, I find I’m more creative when there are already restrictions in place. Sometimes it even works best when it’s restrictions I don’t particularly like, because then I have to be extra creative to bend it back around into something awesome.

    That being said, character building, for me, is challenging. I’m getting ready to wrap up the book I’ve been working on for years and jump into a new story, and with what I’ve already got worked out, I, like pea_faerie, am worried that my MC will turn out to be “same guy, different name” even though the world and the magic system are brand new. (Neither of my primary MCs are the magic-users.)

    As for a new character in the same world, I suspect I could do something nifty with that, though it might involve shifting to a different time period than the book I’ve been working on. The main issue would probably be that the magic system has a pretty limited scope. But, thinking about it, I’d have a number of different new settings to choose from… Grrr…now I’m getting ideas.

  • Twilight, Thank you! I used to do really well in school in writing assignments, like your box, in a way. That starting point,or jumping off point is helpful to people like me. But then pushing the boundaries is important too, and I have to stretch myself when the box gets too small.

    Laura, Thank you. And I love this: >>So I’d write until I stopped resisting myself.<< So perfect! Totally stealing this line! 🙂

  • Pea Emily, I hadn’t thought about making the character too similar until you said that. And suddenly I realized I’ve gone in totally the opposite direction. Jane Yellowrock is hard-edged, cold, and with very violent tendencies. My new character may be too soft! Hmmm. Something to think about! But yes, I can see the fun of starting a similar (dependent?) series in America.

  • Hepseba, I’d say I’m sorry for giving you ideas, but that would be a total lie! And yes to this: >>restrictions I don’t particularly like, because then I have to be extra creative to bend it back around into something awesome.<<

    I've always found that pushing through things I don't like makes a deeper, better rounded conflict or character. Good point.

  • I’d say your emotions are just about on target then ::grin::

  • Mindy, I’m not sure that makes me feel better!

  • Wayne McCalla

    Happy to hear about the new series and your career move as well. Best of luck on both fronts!

  • Congrats on all of this! The job decision is the right one. I know it is. The new Jane stuff will do great, as will the new antho. And I am so intrigued about your new project. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    As to creating a new character for a series in an established world, I have been looking for ways to continue the Thieftaker series beyond book 4 without simply doing more of the same. And it may be that developing a new character and keeping Ethan and Kannice and the others as background characters might be just the thing. I’m going to have to think about this, but I’m getting excited just considering the possibilities. Thank you!!

  • how exciting! I am glad yo are getting a chance to stretch your creativity with a new character and series. I don’t blame you for keeping a foot in the door, that is smart business sense Looking forward to all that is to come.

  • How exciting, Faith! Best wishes to you in all your new endeavors! I know I’m looking forward to reading your new series.

    I think I also work better with restrictions. I’ve noticed lately that the characters I’ve created for various role-playing games seem much more real and vivid to me than any I’ve come up with for my original projects. And I’ve been thinking about why that might be, and how I can create that same vividness in my original work. I think it does have something to do with restrictions – already having so much of the world building in place. Maybe I need to work more on my own world building.

  • Thanks Wayne. I am having off-again and on-again panic attacks.

    David, I think Saphria (did I spell that right?) would be a killer (haha) spin-off character. And you are welcome.

  • Sharon I know that makes me a little chicken, but it also makes feel safer.

    Gypsy, I’ve discovered that if I leave some hidden and dreadful event in the characters’ life, they seem to have a lot more energy.

  • Adrian

    Congrats Faith! Can’t wait to read the new series. Happy you’re able to divide your time less.

    And relieved Jane still has a few books left in her. 🙂

    It must be both exciting and daunting to cast off in a new direction, and I’m sure I’d feel the same tension, thrilled to be creating new characters and biting my nails to see how they were received, all the way along the line. But I can’t wait to see how it turns out! In my own process, for what it’s worth, I tend to think more of what character would fit best into the book problem, but that’s obviously different than a series, where its more episodic, and needs a longer arc to resolve. Interesting to consider, once you pointed out the difference.

    Good luck! 🙂


  • Thanks, Adrian. Yes, there so many variables in character-creation, and so many of them are commercial instead of simply creative. There are good and bad sides to it all, and the episodic part is an important part.

  • Wow, Faith, that’s a lot going on for one day! Congratulations on making the jump to full-time writer. Committing to the new and leaving the old is both exhilarating and terrifying!

    As for creating characters within restrictions, I think I might be better at that. One of my biggest problems in writing is eliminating possibilities. I’m always afraid I’ll come up with a better idea later, so I waffle and refuse to commit. If I had restrictions placed on my by someone else, maybe I could make decisions faster.

  • The quickest way to shut off the creative spigot IMHO is to put pressure on oneself. Some pressure is inevitable, but each of us have to know how much we can carry. Going fulltime, finishing existing obligations and taking on new ones. Feels heavy to me.

  • Congratulations on these incredible accomplishments and decisions. Just amazing. Way to go.

  • I’ve got so many people running around in my head that I have trouble figuring out which world to put them in. Some insist on homes with boundaries already in place; others absolutely refuse to move into a “used” house – they want a brand new one built from scratch.
    And then there are those really cool worlds I’ve build (I adore world-building) that don’t have any…let’s call them focus characters… living in them. Mind, they’re fully populated with the dignitaries, and common folk, but not one of those people has jumped up and waved his/her hands and said, “Me! Me!”

    So – congratulations on having worlds to play in and people to play with. Can’t wait to get Kicking It and all the rest of the stuff coming soon. And really curious to meet a soft character created by you who could have adventures in Jane’s world and survive!

    As for your semi-retirement from the world of day-jobbing, don’t think of it as reducing your hours in the Lab, but increasing your hours in Wordsmith Management. 🙂

  • Sisi, eliminating possibilities is hard! I always think, “But what if I *need* this later?” Dumping things means tying your character’s hands, which actually can help with tightening the conflict, a counter-intuitive thing that is hard to wrap my brain around. 🙂

  • Xmanpub, my new life will indeed be additional pressure. Or, rather, a pressure of a different sort. But it is a life I have longed for for years. I’ve worked about 80 hours a week for all of the last 30 years. I can count on two hands the real days off I’ve taken in those years, or I could until I took off 9 days over Thanksgiving. In fact, that time off, and the stress relief it gave me, made me willing to try this new life. With this schedule, I can write two series. I am sure!

  • Lyn, I totally get the worlds with no MC. I have a fully fleshed out world I’ve never used because there is no main character yet. And I am making this my mantra today: >>Don’t think of it as reducing your hours in the Lab, but increasing your hours in Wordsmith Management.<<

  • Congrats on the big changes! And thanks for the insight into your development. I always enjoys hearing/reading how other writers do things.

  • Hi Kevin. Thanks. I think it’s important all writers to try new ways of doing things, to break down the walls of our own creative boxes. Each book and story and character might require a different approach, adn using only one method can stifle creativity.

  • quillet

    So exciting, Faith! Good luck with everything. And call me flaky, but I’ve got a very good feeling about you writing full time. If good-wishes are wings, you’re gonna fly!

    I love creating characters, though I can’t say precisely how I go about it. I toss ideas around in my head, scribble this and that, until somehow it coalesces and a Real Character suddenly stands up and says “hello.” As for doing that within guidelines, I’ve never tried … but I used to love doing those story-prompts in school. I’d take fiendish delight in following the direction(s) to the letter while doing something totally different from the implied expectation (if you know what I mean). Teachers used to like that and call me creative. I don’t know what an editor might say! 😀

  • Quillet, I promise to never call you flaky! And thank you. And yes, I totally know what you mean. I used to make teachers happy that way too. 🙂