You are the reason that we read books in the first place. We love you, and we love to hate some of you.
Sometimes, folks will ask me which comes first—the character or the story. Like everything else when it comes to writing, it just depends.
In my Mythos Academy young adult series, one of the first thoughts I had was this: what if there was a girl who went to a school for the descendants of ancient warriors like Amazons, Spartans, and Valkyries? What if that girl discovered that she was more of a warrior than she ever thought possible? What if she discovered that she was the key to defeating the bad guy? In that case, the character of Gwen Frost and the overall story and setting of Mythos Academy sort of came to me at the same time.
But, since I write in first person, most of the time, the character, the heroine, comes to me first.
For my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, I knew that I wanted to write about a kick-butt assassin, but it took me a while before I figured out the story and setting. In that case, the character of Gin Blanco and her mixture of toughness and vulnerability was the first thing that really spoke to me. She was the thing, the idea, that interested me, and then I built the story and setting of Ashland around her.
But whether the character or the story comes first, once I have that first nugget of an idea, then I’ll start sketching in the rough outlines of my heroine. What kind of magic does she have? How can that magic grow and change over a series of books? How can she use her magic to defeat the bad guys? What are her likes and dislikes? What are the things that are most important to her? What are the things that she considers worth fighting for?
You answer those questions, and you are on your way to creating the core of your character.
Then comes the fun stuff. I also like to give my characters hobbies and interests that readers can identify with and that tie in with the story and setting. Gwen loves to read comic books and visit her grandma. Gin might be an assassin, but she also enjoys cooking and reading. I think it’s those little touches that readers can really relate to and that give your characters more layers, meaning, and depth. Plus, everyone has something that they’re passionate about, so it makes sense that a character would have that too.
What about you guys? Who are some of your favorite book characters?
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Jennifer Estep is a New York Times bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. She is also the author of the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington and the Bigtime paranormal romance series.
Poison Promise, the 11th book in the Elemental Assassin series, will be published on July 22. Black Widow, the 12th book, will be released on Nov. 25.
For more on Jennifer and her books, visit her website at www.jenniferestep.com. You can also follow Jennifer on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter – @Jennifer_Estep.