Please welcome to the blog the lovely Julia Karr, author of the upcoming book, XVI.
With 7 weeks until the book’s release, we’re all about the 7’s.
Julia, in your book, Nina has a charm with the number 7, a symbol for completeness. To me, a complete/whole character is one of the most vital elements in a story. I’d love for you to give us some insight into your character-writing process.
1. The trick of turning a character into a person is in the details. But we all start somewhere. When you set out to develop a character, where do you start? With details or broad strokes?
I get a vision (sometimes literally, like I did with Nina) of the physical characteristics and a bit of attitude. That’s a fairly broad stroke. But, I can’t get far into my story if I don’t know the details. I have to know not just what my characters look like, but what makes them tick. There are some great tools out there for characterizations, but I’m not so good at using them. I might make some notes of the character’s details, but usually I just sit back, close my eyes, and let them tell me who they are.
2. Do characters come to you with names, or do you have to search for ones that fit? If so, how did you come up with the names in XVI?
Usually my characters come pre-named from the naming factory, which is where I got Nina Oberon. But, let me tell you how one character in XVI got named. As you may know, XVI is a NaNoWriMo novel (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninformed.) I was at a write-in with three other NaNo-ers and we were discussing some of the particulars of our novels-in-progress. We discovered similarities in all of our books, except for names. So, we all agreed to put “Leroy” in our novels as a character. I named my Leroy, Leroy Jenkins. As fate would have it, Leroy (Jenkins or no) was not a good fit in XVI, but, Jenkins ended up being the last name of Wei Jenkins, who befriends Nina. So – my names can really come from about anywhere!
3. How much of your characters’ personalities comes from real people you know, and how much is pure fiction?
Ha! I love this question. And, I might answer it honestly – or – I might answer it, honestly. Sort of depends where the comma falls. (hee hee) Several characters have personality traits of friends (or friends I wanted in high school) and relatives. Gran and my grandmother (Gram) who raised me share many similarities. Mostly, my characters surprise me with how individual they are. They might have a pinch of one person and a dash of another, but for the most part, they are totally fictitious.
4. Aside from your main character, do you have a favorite? A secondary or peripheral?
Oh, I’m totally crazy about Pops! My grandfather died the year I was born, so I never had that granddaughter/grandfather relationship. I have it now!
5. What is your favorite *kind* of character to write?
Hmmm… sometimes this depends totally on my mood, but… I do like to write characters that I love to hate. I can really get into the confrontation aspects of an antagonist. Perhaps that’s because I’m pretty much the opposite of that, for the most part.
6. Readers want love interests. What, in your opinion, are the key components to creating strong love interest?
I think you have to show a strong attraction. Not necessarily physical, but a valid reason that two people are drawn to each other. It could be a shared interest or they could be total opposites who are thrown together through circumstance. But, the attraction has to be there – even if it’s a negative attraction at first.
Another thing… we all love (or have loved) someone. A writer has to draw from that place and bring it alive through words. It’s not always easy to do. But, you have to tap into those strong emotions and get them out into your characters. And, it has to be true to character – you can’t just throw two people together and expect sparks to fly. You have to show the reasons the sparks are flying. Some of the best love interests (scenes) ever written (IMHO) are in Jane Austen’s writings. Excellent study guides, her books!
7. What’s one thing we should know about your main character, Nina?
She is so much stronger and braver than she thinks she is.
Victoria, thank you so much for having me on your blog! It’s been so much fun talking about my characters.
This week’s prize is a signed ARC of XVI!
All you have to do is leave a comment. The comments will be open until next Thursday at midnight and the winner will be announced here the next day. And, remember, everyone who comments will be entered in the Grand Prize drawing on 1/6/11 (XVI’s release date!)