The following are the words of Linda Maria Frank, Archway Publishing author of “Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys” Learn more about Linda on her author website, YouTube, or Facebook page. Download the Archway Publishing free publishing guide for more information on our supported self-publishing services.
Where to Begin?
One of the most common questions when writing fiction is the question of creating characters.
My choice in writing was to create a mystery series for kids. My background teaching forensic science provided a whole world of possibilities for plots. I thought of just the thing to grab my young readers’ attention: the main character of my series, Annie Tillery.
Many of my readers ask if Annie is me. My answer is that Annie is the teen I would have loved to have been. I enjoyed creating a fantasy world and putting Annie into it to see what she would do. You know, sometimes the characters make the decisions. That being said, I manufactured my girl sleuth protagonist.
Building Your Character
The process of creating Annie was like dressing a paper doll. Let’s see what the basic body type is. This is important! Your readers want to visualize what she looks like. I decided to address this issue by adding a description somewhere early in each book. Next, I tried on – not different clothing – but different characteristics. Some of the choices for a junior sleuth were: brave vs. reckless, smart vs. nerdy, enthusiastic vs. low key, sneaky vs. inventive, and feisty vs. passive aggressive.
It’s also important to give the protagonist a personal life, family, relationships and such; not a perfect family, but one that presents them with challenges and brings out characteristics that will endear them to a reader. Or, make them angry at her.
The books you’ve read that feature characters you’ve fallen in love with let you into that character’s head. Even better is if the author lets you into a character’s heart. That is what I have attempted in my teen mystery books.
Whatever the genre or plot, the reader wants to know what the main characters think and feel. What’s the best way to do that? THIS WAS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE TO ME WHEN I FIRST STARTED TO WRITE.
Placing the Character
The final element of a book is setting. The first two books of my series take place in settings I knew and loved. Because of this, the story could sometimes just flow on the back of descriptive passages and historical accounts. The development of characters became easier, because the setting helped me to capitalize on specific personality traits that were evoked by the surroundings.
Setting the third book of my series, Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys, in Turkey was not easy. Although I visited Turkey to research the book, the fabulous settings I found there were not a part of my soul. I had to really work hard to achieve a credible air of intimacy with the settings of Turkey.
In an archaeological journal I came upon a description of a dig in a real place: Catalhoyuk, in what is modern day Turkey. I was fascinated by the fact that Catalhoyuk was the oldest known town ever found (9,000 years old). The area where it exists is Cappadocia, rich with ancient history from the Hittites to the “cave people”of the present. “Fairy chimneys” is the name given to striking and weird geological formations that exist there.
My tour of Turkey included much time in Cappadocia, allowing me to take many pictures and absorb the atmosphere of the place. I took notes and wrote passages of the book, adjusting the chapter outline to make it fit what I saw. My photos were invaluable. I had a super guide book that helped me with words and phrases. I took note of peoples’ names so that I could use authentic Turkish names in the book. Cappadocia almost became one of the characters in the book with its dry vegetation, dust, and of course, fairy chimneys.
Istanbul, once Constantinople, was captivating. The city setting can still be conjured up just by closing my eyes. The bazaar exceeded my expectations. It was a total assault on the senses
As a writer, the lesson I took from Turkey is to really research your setting. If you can’t go there, study maps, view travelogues, and learn the history of the place. Google maps and images are a great help too.
There needs to be a balance between setting, character, and plot. Setting for me can be one of your characters; one that provides your main characters with endless possibilities.
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