Hello, my favorite booknerds! So, one of the questions I’ve gotten that you wanted to see in a blog post was: how I come up with my characters? I interpret this question in a few ways, from how I character build, to why I chose to have my characters look the way they do, as all of that was done intentionally. I try to always create my characters with intention—this is, of course, 100% the case for my main and secondary characters, though I can’t say I always do this for a character who isn’t named and has all of one page in the novel. Still, if you’ve read my last blog post about how I name my characters, you can bet that I love character building just as much (because I do).
Perhaps the easiest thing to explain is why I decided some characters needed to have certain personality traits. Once I figure out what the central story is, and how/where the book needs to end, it becomes a matter of figuring out what kinds of personality types will fit with the goal I have, and also add wonderful obstacles for my main cast, because a story without interpersonal conflict is boring in my opinion. That’s why Lana has such a strong maternal instinct and wants to be a mother, but Jon is more than content having their lives revolve around just the two of them. It makes for a persistent conflict that helps a character get to the place they need to end up by the end of the series—sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers here for some of my new readers, so some of the specific traits will be vague.
The story and the struggle I wanted my characters to undergo dictated that Tallis couldn’t be a born leader and that Donovan had to have an incredible sense of familial loyalty. Whereas, because I wanted to challenge some of the tropes and stereotypes I find annoying, I made Tomas a gentle intellectual rather than a brawny meat-head, and I wanted my character of color to come from an unbelievably stable, supportive, and intact family unit. It’s also why I give Tallis her quirks of avoidance and have her struggle with anxiety, because I want to show that strong can come in a plethora of forms.
As for looks… I created characters that I would like looking at, as vain as it sounds. But hey, if I couldn’t fall for Tomas or Donovan because they looked like trolls, I wouldn’t expect you to, either! But the sad truth is, Tallis looks like the girl I wish I looked like.
I came to the body positive movement late in my life. For most of my formative years, I believed I was hideous; I was too big, disproportionally shaped, my hair too dull, and eyes too plain. I wanted to hide, to be smaller. So, that’s why Tallis looks the way she does. She’s petite the way I had wanted to be all my life. She has the wavy, long, platinum blonde hair I wish I had, and sea green eyes I would kill for—ok, not really. That’s why Tallis looks the way she does and isn’t darker skinned, or have red hair, or what have you.
That being said, it’s also why Rosslyn looks the way she does. In an effort to embrace my own shape, I made Rosslyn this crazy confident, enviously curvy woman. She loves her freckles as much as she loves her body’s size—and others find her irresistibly attractive as well! For both her physical looks, and her confidence. Rosslyn is where I aspire to be in terms of accepting and loving myself, and Tallis is a throwback to the way I prayed I had looked for decades.
There’s a phrase, a lauded piece of advice often given to authors, to “write what you know”. I may not deal with feral elves on a daily basis, but I did know what it felt like to be dissatisfied with something I couldn’t change, and I knew that was unfair to myself. So creating characters that allow me to work through those things is, in my own way, writing what I know.
So there you have it, my friends! This is how and why I create my characters and a bit of the process behind bringing them to life. Hopefully this makes them feel even more realistic and grounded despite their fantasy setting, and, hopefully, it inspires both hope and acceptance should that be something you need. I’ll be answering more of your questions in later blog posts, but, as always, if there is another topic you’d like me to cover, shoot me a message! And let me know what you think of my process in the comments.